San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Dissident Leader Calls For Null Vote on Nov. 9

Former guerrilla leader Mónica Baltodano, a lawmaker for the leftist Sandinista Renovation Movement (MRS), is calling on disenfranchised citizens to vote “null” in the Nov. 9 municipal elections as a means of protesting the “corrupt system.”

Baltodano, whose own party was eliminated from the elections by the Supreme Electoral Council (CSE), argues that a vote for either the candidates of the ruling Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) or the challenging Liberal Constitutional Party (PLC) is a vote to endorse an “illegitimate” electoral system controlled by a power-sharing pact between the two majority parties.

Instead, Baltodano is calling on supporters of her Movement to Rescue Sandinismo to protest the whole election by voting null, or marking all of the candidates on the ballot and, thereby, nullifying the vote.

“Voting null is to reject the closing of democratic spaces and defend the right to have alternatives,” according to a pamflet circulated by her political movement. “The null vote rejects both the candidates. It’s an act of rebellion to elect a new alternative.”

Baltodano rejects the argument that a null vote is a wasted vote.

“This vote counts in the sense that it sends a message of discontent with the current scheme of power,” Baltodano told The Nica Times this week.

A CID-Gallup poll released last week shows that in the race for mayor of Managua, FSLN candidate Alexis Argüello leads with 37 percent, followed by PLC candidate Eduardo Montealegre, with 32 percent. But nearly one out of three candidates is still undecided or won’t say for whom they are going to vote.

Though some leaders of the MRS have come out in favor of supporting Montealegre as a stopgap to President Daniel Ortega’s continued accumulation of political power, Baltodano says that supporting the Liberal candidate is just “falling into the trap” set by Ortega and his Liberal party boss counterpart, Arnoldo Alemán.

She argues that a vote for either the FSLN or the PLC is a vote to legitimize the powersharing pact between Ortega and Alemán and their privately negotiated plan to reform the Constitution to institutionalize bipartisan rule and allow for consecutive reelection.

Baltodano warns that Ortega and Alemán are finalizing their plan to reform the Constitution or draft a new one altogether, and will introduce their initiative to the National Assembly right after the election, in hopes of getting it passed before lawmakers break for the year on Dec. 15.

If the two parties win a majority of the votes on election day next month, they’ll feel emboldened to move forward quickly on their plan, she predicts.

Baltodano says she’s lost hope that the MRS will ever be reinstituted as a party or allowed to participate in the 2011 presidential elections. And so she thinks the best vote now is one that rejects the system entirely and refuses to lend it any legitimacy with a valid vote.

“We don’t want people to stay at home on election day, they need to come out and vote,” she said. “And the protest vote is the clearest way to show rejection of the pacto.”


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