San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Uncertainty, Instability Follow Contested Municipal Elections

With calls for a nationwide recount and conflicting claims to victory in several cities where both candidates have declared themselves winners, there were more doubts than answers this week regarding the results of Sunday’s municipal elections.

Based on preliminary and disputed vote tallies by the Supreme Electoral Council as of Tuesday evening, with some 86 percent of the vote counted, the Sandinista National Liberation Front was positioned to win 91 of 146 municipalities, while the Liberal Constitutional Party was leading in 49 municipalities, the Nicaraguan Liberal Alliance in three and the Nicaraguan Resistance Party in one. The remaining seven municipalities in the North Atlantic Autonomous Region will hold their elections in February.

According to the vote tally, the Sandinistas also lead the Liberals in departmental capital cities, 11 to 5. However, many of those cities were still being fought amid allegations of electoral theft, such as the last minute vote cancelations that gave the Sandinistas victory in Granada in 2004 – an election that observers say was stolen.

At press time, both Liberal and Sandinista candidates were declaring victory in Managua and León, with equally unclear electoral results in Masaya and Matagalpa.

In Granada, Liberal candidate Eulogio Mejia was poised to win a decisive victory despite allegations that the Sandinistas tried to annul some 2,000 votes in his favor.

Mejia, an agronomist and rice farmer, is a longtime member of Granada’s traditionally powerful Conservative Party, but was recruited to run as candidate for the Liberal Constitutional Party -Vamos Con Eduardo alliance after his party’s legal status was canceled by the CSE. New to politics, Mejia, who is married with three children, says he identifies more as someone from the private sector than he does a politician.

“I am a loyal believer of private business, and I believe that the mayor’s office needs to work with business,” he said. Mejia, who was careful not to make many promises during the campaign, says he will streamline business procedures, help to improve the city’s tourism offering, improve roads and create jobs.

In the equally bustling tourism and expatriate beach town of San Juan del Sur, the presumptive winner with 49 percent of the vote is lifetime Sandinista loyalist Jorge Sánchez, who says his relationship with the Sandinista party in Managua will make for a smooth four years in office.

A hotel owner, Sánchez served as vice mayor under the scandal-plagued administration of Abelardo Nuñez, and was the Sandinista party secretary in San Juan during the 1990s. He says he’ll see to it that the new border crossing south of San Juan and the Costanera highway make progress during his administration.


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