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Nicaraguan Election A Setback For Democracy

Police officers carry boxes filled with ballots to waiting vehicles that will distribute the material to polling centers, in Managua, Nicaragua, November 5, 2011.

The Organization of American States has confirmed fears that the November 6 elections were marred by significant irregularities.

The Organization of American States, in a report issued in late January after two months of study, has confirmed initial fears both inside and outside Nicaragua that the nation’s November 6 presidential and legislative elections were not conducted in a free or fair manner, and instead were marred by significant irregularities.

OAS officials found many voters were unable to obtain the identification cards needed to vote, independent election observers were denied accreditation to do their jobs and some opposition political parties were not allowed to monitor the vote at all polling stations.

OAS observers themselves were denied access to some polling stations during the critical set-up phase. As such, the election undermined the ability of Nicaraguans to hold their government accountable and thus represents a significant setback for democracy in the Central American nation.

As an organization dedicated to the defense of democracy in the Western Hemisphere, the OAS should use these findings to assess all available initiatives to strengthen Nicaragua’s democracy, consistent with the Inter-American Democratic Charter.

The United States will work with our OAS partners to conduct such an assessment and to hold the Nicaraguan government accountable for implementing the OAS’s recommendations. For its part, the U.S. will continue to apply aggressive scrutiny to project loans at the Inter-American Development Bank and World Bank, and oppose any loan request that does not meet these institutions’ high standards or provide sufficient development impact.

The United States will also continue to support civil society and promote human rights in Nicaragua. Its citizens, like people everywhere, have the right to vote in genuine, periodic elections and should have their voices heard. They deserve free, fair and transparent elections and leaders who are accountable to them.