Nicaraguans re-elected incumbent President Daniel Ortega and his party, the Sandinista National Liberation Front, to another 5 year term this month. The result was unsurprising given Ortega’s concerted efforts to eliminate political opposition and prohibit independent election observation. Many voters abstained in protest of what they characterized as a rigged process.
In June, not long after Mr. Ortega announced his candidacy, he said he would not allow independent international election observers. Later, the Nicaraguan Supreme Court removed Eduardo Montealegre as leader of the main opposition Independent Liberation Party, or PLI, and installed Ortega loyalist, Pedro Reyes, as his replacement.
When PLI deputies to the National Assembly refused to accept their party’s court-imposed leader, and declared themselves independent, 28 of them were expelled.
Finally, little more than a month before the election, Mr. Reyes unexpectedly stepped down and was replaced by Jose del Carmen Alvarado, another figure largely unknown to traditional PLI supporters. Previously a strong runner up to the Sandinista National Liberation Front with 28 elected members of congress, this time, the PLI won five percent of the vote and one seat in congress.
Mr. Ortega is an old hand at political gamesmanship. He first ran the country as junta coordinator from 1979 to 1985, then president from 1985 to 1990. When he lost the election in 1990, he bowed out gracefully, setting a precedent of peaceful transition of power. However, over the next few years, Mr. Ortega worked to set up his control of the electoral system. Once again he won the Presidency in 2001; he began to consolidate power by skewing the electoral system to greatly favor his governing party.
“The United States is deeply concerned by the flawed presidential and legislative electoral process in Nicaragua,” said State Department Deputy Spokesperson Mark Toner in a written statement.
“We continue to press the Nicaraguan government to uphold democratic practices including press freedom and respect for universal human rights in Nicaragua, consistent with our countries’ shared obligations under the Inter-American Democratic Charter.
“We have a strong partnership with the Nicaraguan people. We will continue to work on behalf of the Nicaraguan people to achieve a more prosperous, secure, and democratic Nicaragua.”