San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Amid Calls for Protest Vote, Observers Fear Exclusion

MANAGUA – With slightly more than two months to go before the already hotly contested and protested municipal elections, the left-wing Movement to Rescue Sandinismo is calling on people to reject the upcoming Nov. 9 vote by defacing their ballots in a “null vote.”

By doing so, the activist group argues, citizens will show their rejection for the “rules of the game” imposed by the bipartisan political pact between the ruling Sandinista Front and the Liberal Constitutional Party (PLC). The activists accuse the two majority parties of illegally excluding the Sandinista Renovation Movement (MRS) and the Conservative Party (PC) from the election after both parties had their legal status revoked last month.

The dissident Sandinista movement, headed by former guerrilla heroes Monica Baltodano and Henry “Modesto” Ruíz, says it favors a null vote over abstentionism, even though they think the “pacto” will try to hide the results afterwards.

Not everyone is in agreement with the nullvote approach. The Nicaraguan Resistance Party (PRN), a minority party of the former Contra, claims that a null vote is a wasted vote that will only help the Sandinistas win.

Minority parties aren’t the only ones excluded from the elections.

Ethics and Transparency, the country’s top electoral watchdog group, also fears it won’t be allowed to participate as observers.

Group President Alta Hooker has sent two letters to the CSE requesting accreditation for her group, but has yet to receive a response.

Hooker fears the CSE is retaliating against Ethics and Transparency for criticizing the decision to disqualify the MRS and PC.

Roberto Courtney, executive director of Ethics and Transparency, said if the government denies the organization accreditation, it will only cause backlash and give the losers ammunition to challenge the validity of the results.

“It’s possible that the losers could say the CSE has no credibility,” Courtney said.

The exclusion of the minority parties has also been the subject of criticism from foreign ambassadors, rights groups and – most recently – Managua’s Archbishop Leopoldo Brenes, who called the move “lamentable.”

The Nica Times contacted the Supreme Electoral Council’s press office for comment but didn’t receive a response.


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