San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Watchdog Calls for Partial Vote Annulment

MANAGUA – The results from last November’s municipal elections were tainted by “systemic fraud” that overwhelmingly favored the ruling Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), according to the final electoral report presented this week by democratic watchdog group Ethics and Transparency.

The non-governmental organization, a local branch of Berlin-based Transparency International, called for a “partial annulment” of the election results in more than 30 of 146 municipalities where irregularities were most blatant.

Ethics and Transparency observed the elections in an unofficial capacity, since the Supreme Electoral Council (CSE) refused to accredit them.

“The Supreme Electoral Council violated electoral laws in transparency in the counting, transmission and monitoring of the election results,” said Ethics and Transparency Director Roberto Courtney.

Courtney also called for an electoral reform to replace existing electoral magistrates and overhaul the entire system, which is controlled by the FSLN and Liberal Constitutional Party (PLC). He said the system needs to be “depoliticized” to allow for more fair participation from other parties.

The FSLN and PLC magistrates in the CSE formed a pact last year to exclude several of the smaller minority parties from participating in the Nov. 9 elections – a move that was widely decried both nationally and internationally.

Courtney said the electoral system here  has “collapsed” and that the CSE “will never be able to provide legitimate results” for any future elections if the Ortega government doesn’t concede a partial annulment and pass the much-needed reforms, which opposition party leaders have already begun to discuss in hopes of changing the system before the 2011 presidential elections.

Courtney said Nicaragua has yet to pay fully for last year’s despoiled electoral process. The full effects of more than $100 million in foreign aid suspensions resulting from last year’s electoral debacle have yet to be felt, he said.

“Not all violations are punished immediately,” he told The Nica Times, “but the parties involved in fraud will pay the price.”

The Nica Times tried contacting CSE spokesman Felix Navarrete for comment on the Ethics and Transparency report, but didn’t receive a response by press time.

The U.S. government has given Nicaragua until mid-March to resolve its electoral crisis at the risk of losing the rest of its $175 million Millennium Challenge Corporation development pact that provides aid for poor farmers and producers.

By The Numbers:

Irregularities in the ’08 Municipal Elections

30 – Percent of voting centers nationwide where electoral officials failed to post electoral results following the elections, as required by law.

25 – Number of voting centers in Managua where men wielding machetes, clubs and/or firearms were reported to be “patrolling” nearby on Election Day.

10 – Percent of voting centers closed early on Election Day.

10 – Percent of voting centers where electoral officials forced electoral observers from opposition parties to leave during the election.

15 – Percent of voting centers where Liberal Constitutional Party voting officials weren’t present.

0.5 – Average percent over eight previous elections monitored by Ethics and Transparency, of voting centers where Liberal Party voting officials weren’t present.

0 – Number of voting centers where electoral observers for opposition parties reported no irregularities in trying to obtain accreditation to observe the election.

12 – Percent of voting centers where results still haven’t been published by the CSE.

31 – Percent of voting centers in Managua where results where never published.

33 – Highest percentage of votes the FSLN had ever won in 8 previous elections in Managua.

51 – Percentage of the vote that FSLN candidate Alexis Argüello allegedly won in Managua.

300 – Percent growth in the number of annulled votes compared to the average over the past eight elections.

33 – Number of municipalities where “the popular will was violated” due to irregularities in the November 2008 municipal elections, according to Ethics and Transparency.

10, 28, 29, 107, 114, 123, 127, 129, 173,

175 – Articles in Nicaragua’s Electoral Code that were violated by electoral officials by using public resources for campaigns, refusing credentials to opposition electoral monitors, closing voting stations early and failing to publish results detailing each voting center, among other alleged electoral violations.

Source: Ethics and Transparency Final Report on the 2008 Municipal Elections.


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