The sudden and definitive cancellation of the Democratic Restoration Party’s legal status has lain bare the regime’s real electoral intentions. According to lawyers and civic organizations, the regime of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo has all possible tools at their disposal to “eliminate” or “annul” any spark of real competition in the November 7th elections.
“We must be clear that the opposition’s possibilities are in the government’s hands. Logically, they want a tailor-made opposition. Therefore, they’ll remove from the game any electoral opposition that threatens them,” affirmed Yader Loza, of the Electoral Reforms Promotion Group.
“This cancellation demonstrates that no ballot space is secure here. Whenever the government wants, they can just remove any party they choose from the ballot,” he added.
The Supreme Electoral Council is controlled by Ortega’s governing party, the FSLN. On Tuesday, May 18, they abruptly cancelled the legal status of the Democratic Restoration Party (PRD). The assigned PRD ballot space – number 14 – was also going to represent the opposition group known as the National Coalition in the November elections. These national elections will choose a President and Vice President, as well as national and departmental legislative seats and deputies to the Central American Parliament.
A tailor-made opposition
Juan Diego Barbarena, a lawyer belonging to the political council of the Blue and White Unity movement (UNAB) also commented on the PRD cancellation. “The PRD had truly become a party of the opposition. They were going to use their vehicle to carry along other organizations, with an eye towards defeating the dictatorship.”
“The underlying intention [behind the cancellation] is to eliminate any electoral competition. Leaders [precandidates] like Felix Maradiaga, Medardo Mairena, and Miguel Mora now have no means of participating in the elections,” he explained. Nor has Cristiana Chamorro, who had also been asked to participate with the National Coalition, using the PRD ballot space.
Attorney Barbarena added that, by annulling the electoral competition, “the dictatorship is selecting their opponents.” Small parties that collaborate with the dictatorship will play that role. These parties are colloquially known as “mosquito” parties. They’ll be joined by “the political and economic groups in the Citizens’ Alliance”, the other opposition platform. That alliance is still on the ballot, appearing as the Citizens for Liberty Party in space 15.
The National Coalition issued a statement saying: “Ortega wants to execute an electoral farce, where he selects the participants. Inclusion is one of the most important attributes of a democratic election. This arbitrary, unconstitutional and illegitimate resolution [to cancel the PRD’s legal status], only reveals their terror at facing the opposition grouped in the National Coalition. Since they can’t defeat them in a clean contest, they’ve opted to exclude them.”
“The National Coalition will continue working, with more enthusiasm, especially now. This legal monstrosity perpetrated by the dictatorship confirms that we’re truly a stone in the shoes of Ortega and Murillo,” the public statement concluded.
The UNAB, members of the National Coalition, issued a separate declaration. “It’s evident that the dictatorship wants to realize an electoral farce, with parties and alliances that submit to their impositions. Those parties won’t get in the way of the regime’s intention to perpetuate themselves in power through blood and fire.”
“The dictatorship wants a controlled election,” the Democratic Renewal Movement, previously the Sandinista Renewal Movement, stated. “They want an election on a tailor-made turf, with forces that are under their domination, and participants who’ve accepted their conditions. The National Coalition won’t be ruled by the regime. That’s why they’ve opted to eliminate the PRD’s ballot space in the next elections.”
A de facto electoral alliance
“The fact that the PRD had guaranteed the inclusion of the National Coalition made the dictatorship tremble,” affirmed the UNAB. “Any future elections will only be legitimate if the National Coalition participates. We’re going to keep working for a true opposition.”
PRD had originally been formulated as a political party associated with the Christian churches. However, last Saturday, the PRD and members of the National Coalition signed a “de facto” electoral alliance. Only the Rural Movement declined to sign the document at that time.
On Monday, May 17, a group of Protestant pastors objected to this de facto union with the opposition groups. They filed a petition contesting the formation of an alliance under the party banner.
“We’ve learned that the party has reformed its statutes, and has formed an electoral alliance with people who aren’t compatible with the Christian values and principles promoted by that organization. In the face of such occurrences, we’ve come to appeal the reforms of the PRD statutes, as well as the formation of any kind of alliance with people who are contrary to these values.” Those were the declarations one of the pastors made to Channel 10.
Without any further study or investigation, the Supreme Electoral Council used that appeal petition to summarily cancel the PRD’s legal status as a political party. Lawyers have termed this move “illegal” and “arbitrary”.
“[The Council] didn’t adhere to the law. Only political parties can appeal the granting of legal status; Individual citizens can’t contest that status,” Yader Loza stated.
“The time to have contested the party’s status had already passed. Objections are filed at the moment when a party requests legalization. [The PRD was awarded legal status as a political party in 2016.] There’s a period of 15 days established at that time for other parties to contest that legality; in this case, no one objected,” the legal specialist explained.
“Objecting Pastors aren’t party activists”
Juan Barbarena also assured that the Electoral Council’s resolution is “illegal”. Those presenting the objection “aren’t party activists”. For that reason, “they don’t have the legitimate standing to contest the PRD’s legal status. The PRD decision [to establish a de facto alliance] hasn’t caused them any harm.”
Yuri Rojas, the PRD’s legal advisor, indicated that the pastors who appeared have no status at all in the party. “Those citizens aren’t senior members of the PRD in any of our municipalities or departments. As such, they have no party rights in the PRD.”
Loza noted that before issuing a ruling, “the Electoral Council should have heard what the PRD had to say, or seek proof that the allegations of those appealing were true. None of that was done. They made their ruling from one day to the next.”
In the same vein, Barbarena emphasized that the Electoral Power “is in flagrant violation of the rules of due process, because the PRD was judged without being heard.”
Barbarena, of the Blue and White Unity, specified that none of the arguments used by the Supreme Electoral Council were acceptable causes for canceling legal status. Such causes are outlined in Article 74 of the Electoral Law. Acceptable causes include: violating the dispositions established by this law regarding the origin and utilization of financing; a party decision to dissolve, or to fuse with another party; non-participation in elections; or failing to obtain at least 4% of the valid votes in the national elections.
PRD without legal recourse
Loza explained that, legally, the PRD has no options to contest the Electoral Council’s decision. The resolutions of the Supreme Electoral Council are final, with no appeals, neither ordinary nor extraordinary.”
“Here in Nicaragua, nothing more can be done from the legal point of view, even though the Council’s resolution was illegal,” the specialist stipulated. He suggested “denouncing the abuse to the national and international human rights organizations.”
Miguel Mora, an aspiring presidential candidate, indicated they’d “continue organizing and preparing for peaceful civic resistance.”
In a brief statement, Citizens for Liberty (CxL), declared that the cancellation of the PRD’s legal party status, “gravely injures Nicaraguans’ constitutional right to choose and be elected. It clearly manifests the lack of legal security that has characterized the electoral processes for over a decade.”
The CxL alliance is made up of the Citizens for Liberty party and the Movement for Coastal Unity, accompanied by the Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy. Less than a week ago, the CxL party and the PRD failed in their final attempt to seal an electoral alliance, following days of tense negotiations.