The National Assembly, controlled by Ortega, on Tuesday appointed the new magistrates of the Supreme Electoral Council (CSE in Spanish) tailored to his ruling Sandinista Front, opening the doors to a new fraud in the upcoming elections on November 7.
The deputies re-elected magistrates Lumberto Campbell and Mayra Salinas, from the Sandinista Front. In addition, they appointed Brenda Rocha Chacón, Alma Nubia Baltodano Marcenaro, Devoney McDavis Alvarez and Adriana Marina Molina Fajardo proposed by the FSLN.
The nomination of the candidates proposed by collaborationist parties was also confirmed: Cairo Amador, proposed by the Nicaraguan Liberal Alliance; Leonzo Knight proposed by the Conservative Party; Alberto Blandón from the Constitutionalist Liberal Party, and Maura Lizet Álvarez, proposed by the Independent Liberal Party. The candidates proposed through the opposition platform National Coalition were not considered by Ortega’s deputies, who hold an absolute majority in parliament after the 2016 electoral fraud.
Confidencial disclosed weeks ago that Ortega would seek to re-elect Campbell (despite his serious health problems) and Salinas, besides establishing a majority of women as magistrates in the Electoral Branch. Salinas, according to the Sandinista Front sources, will be placed as president of the CSE, officially filling the vacancy left by Roberto Rivas Reyes, after he resigned following the sanctions against him by the United States.
Electoral Reforms to Guarantee Ortega’s Victory
In the same legislative session, the National Assembly, with 85 votes from the Sandinista Front caucus and their political allies, imposed the electoral reforms tailored to the ruling party so that Daniel Ortega gets his third consecutive presidential re-election. The proposed reforms to the electoral law not only keep but expand the advantages for Ortega. In the Electoral Commission hearings the motions presented by the National Coalition and the rejection of the rest of the opposition and international organizations was totally ignored.
The reforms approved by Ortega’s bench and their political allies have been rejected by ten opposition candidates, the Promotion of Electoral Reforms Group and slightly higher than 50 opposition political parties, civil society organizations and entrepreneurial chambers, including associations that gather Nicaraguans abroad.
Furthermore, the reforms failed to incorporate what was established by a Resolution of the General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) of October 2020. The reforms also open the doors for the disqualification of candidates, and give full control of the electoral campaign to the Police, the main repressive arm of the dictatorship.
The approval was based on the favorable opinion provided by the Special Commission for Electoral Affairs, controlled by deputies loyal to the dictatorship. The opinion, signed by all the members of the Commission, including the deputies of the Constitutionalist Liberal Party (PLC) and the Independent Liberal Party (PLI), even toughens some of the points that were questioned by the opponents, mainly the point referring to the restriction to receive any type of financing coming from abroad.
After the election of electoral magistrates, the president of the National Assembly, the Ortega deputy Gustavo Porras, ordered a fast-track debate on the electoral reforms. Its approval received a near unanimous vote from the FSLN majority and the other allied political forces present, with only four votes against.
During their interventions non-Sandinista deputies Rosa Argentina Navarro, Azucena Castillo, Miguel Rosales and Alejandro Mejía Ferreti, pointed out that the electoral reform does not guarantee fair political competition and transparency in the November 2021 elections. However, deputies of the PLC, ALN, PLI and APRE caucuses all backed with their vote the electoral reforms promoted by the Ortega deputies.
The reforms were defended by Ortega deputies Edwin Castro and Walmaro Gutierrez, both members of the Special Commission on Electoral Affairs. Castro said that the reforms “deepened the democratic system of Nicaragua” and that they had the support of the deputies of the PLC and PLI who were part of the Commission. In addition, he insisted that it was consulted with 19 political parties. For his part, Gutierrez insisted that the electoral reforms incorporate the technical recommendations made by the “OAS accompaniment” team that came to Nicaragua for the 2016 elections.
“Article 181 (of the electoral reforms initiative) was adjusted so that parties lose their legal status, if the item referred to financing from abroad is violated,” said political analyst Eliseo Nunez Morales.
The Special Commission on Electoral Affairs also approved the controversial articles referring to the repeal of the requirement of 4% of valid votes to have the right to state financing for the campaign (which has been criticized for being a door to political opportunism. The reforms maintain the subordination of the Electoral Law to what is established by repressive laws, such as that one referring to “foreign agents” or the inhibition of candidates for being linked to the “terrorist acts of 2018,” a term by which the dictatorship refers to the citizens protest of that year.
The Special Commission on Electoral Affairs also favorably ruled on the point related to the distribution of 50 percent men and 50 percent women in all the entities that make up the structures of the electoral system, including the polling agents of the political parties. This was also questioned by the opponents due to the complexity and difficulty of this process, taking into account that there are only a little more than six-months until the elections.
Opponents receive a deaf ear
Jose Pallais, member of the National Coalition, an opposition platform that presented motions to the electoral reforms initiative through the Yatama indigenous party and the Democratic Restoration Party (PRD), said that after reading the opinion, it is clear that the proposals presented by opposition political forces were not taken into account by the Special Commission.
“This ruling maintains and even reinforces the objectives the regime set itself with the initiative they initially introduced. It clearly gives the Sandinista Front broad advantages and puts opponents on the road to face restrictions and inhibitions to participate in the elections. None of the substantial proposals made by the National Coalition were taken into account. I dare to predict that what came in, is what will come out, without significant changes,” said Pallais.
“What these reforms seek is to continue and even improve the regime’s control of the entire electoral process. It affects the competitiveness of the opposition, even restricting their right to march, to organize, to campaign, with the control now given to the Police. All the opportunity to modernize the electoral system was wasted. I even dare say that we are on the way to an institutionalization of electoral fraud,” added Pallais.
Nunez noted that the reforms show the clear lack of will on the part of the Ortega regime to find a way out of the socio-political crisis through the electoral process. According to the political analyst, the dictatorship has other objectives.