The Supreme Electoral Council (CSE) – controlled by operators of the Ortega regime – plans to announce the municipal elections of November 6, 2022, in the second week of May, following its rule of calling these processes six months or less before voting day.
The elections would be a “photocopy” of the 2021 voting process, which was held without political competition and under the shadow of repression and the police state imposed by the Ortega regime.
According to official data, the government’s party (FSLN) currently controls 137 of 153 municipalities, equivalent to 90% of the country’s city halls. At the local level, as a mirror of Ortega’s leadership, it has maintained a re-election policy that has made it possible for at least 41 mayors to remain in power since 2007.
The Sandinista Front has not yet made any official moves concerning these elections, but the recent internal conflicts within the party worry its leadership.
This motivated the leadership of the ruling party to “instill” the order of “unity” around Ortega in the Electoral Victory Units (UVE) in the face of municipal elections, after unresolved tensions between historical militants and the band of professionals loyal to Vice President Rosario Murillo.
A message addressed to the militants, which circulates among the members of the FSLN party structures, explains that the main objective to fulfill its electoral goals is for the Sandinista base to understand that “everyone must be in a UVE. Nobody outside of them!”
That is the most recent communiqué, after the order on March 28th to deactivate the so-called “historic Sandinista” grouping which generated criticism of Murillo. One of them, Marlon Gerardo Sáenz, known as “Chino Enoc”, uses social networks to blame the vice president for causing the partisan division and for keeping Ortega incommunicado.
The UVEs had an outstanding level of participation in 2021, during the campaign that allowed the illegitimate re-election of Ortega when the FSLN campaigned using state resources.
Its members were in charge of surveillance of opponents in the neighborhoods and also the micro-local campaign that promotes the personality cult of the presidential couple. Through different activities, they try to sell an alleged closeness with the population, in a dictatorial context marked by the lack of freedoms and the repressive escalation that imprisoned 52 more persons since the end of May 2021.
“There is no time to lose. From now on, the most committed militants of the UVEs should visit and talk with the other militants in their area to ensure that the FSLN counts on them for the struggles and victories to come,” the communication adds.
The vision they transmit to their bases is that “everyone works to overcome poverty and change Nicaragua with Daniel and Rosario at the forefront.” They further explain that, in addition to winning the vote with activities in the neighborhoods, on election day they must work to get out the Sandinista vote and defend it in the Polling Stations and Voting Centers, whether as poll watchers or poll workers conducting the vote.
Municipal without competition for the FSLN
Monica Baltodano, a former FSLN leader and an expert on municipalities, said the UVEs are the structures that were once under the command of Colonel Lenin Cerna, a former FSLN secretary of the organization, who separated from his party position after conflicts with Murillo in 2011.
“Right now they are going to compete alone. The situation has not changed in relation to last November,” said Baltodano, who believes that at the local level, the leadership can opt for the reelection policy, making small adjustments in places where they have had some crises.
Baltodano said that more internal conflicts can be expected in the FSLN, but this time over seats on the city councils, where militants can receive a small allowance. That is the reason they are calling for unity, trying to prevent the differences that exist in the territories from emerging, she adds.
“The fight for the leftovers is going to be fierce. They are going to collide with Murillo’s reelection logic that proposes reelecting officials to avoid conflicts. However, what happens is that before there was more to distribute, now there is a crisis,” says the former Sandinista commander.
Migration is affecting the population
Baltodano said that, in a recent meeting with 20 territorial leaders, the information they gave Ortega is that the municipalities are being affected by migration: the population is choosing to go to the United States. “There is no work, salaries are not enough, and the cost of living has increased,” she added.
Baldotano notes that the situation of economic crisis is being felt by supporters of the ruling party. She claims that many have stopped defending the presidential family with the same enthusiasm. The essential thing, however, before any evaluation, is that there is no electoral competition.
Fragmented opponents seek political survival
The Supreme Electoral Council, under Ortega’s control, suspended the legal status of the last opposition party Ciudadanos por La Libertad in August 2021. Ortega re-elected himself in November, after imprisoning seven potential presidential candidates, while he was accompanied on the electoral ballot only by small allied political parties.
Ortega also suspended the legal status of the Democratic Restoration Party (PRD), intended to be the electoral vehicle of the opposition National Coalition platform. For the municipal elections of 2022, the panorama of these two political forces is irregular.
The PRD formally disappeared as a political party. Julio Gonzalez, former Secretary of Political Coordination of the PRD, declared that this organization had finally been extinguished to make way for a new party called “Sigamos Adelante” (let’s move forward).
Gonzalez reported that they are in the stage of forming departmental boards of directors, as part of the requirements demanded by the CSE. This political force intends to participate in the municipal elections, as long as the electoral power provides approval before calling these elections.
When González was asked if they trusted the CSE to carry out transparent elections, he replied that “they had to continue fighting.” He emphasized that they are not considering any alliance with another political force until they have the final approval of the electoral power.
CxL is not making any efforts to reactivate its status for the municipal elections, according to sources linked to the leadership of that party. Oscar Sobalvarro, who was the last presidential candidate of this organization before being “decapitated,” said in brief statements that until they rule on the appeals filed to challenge the cancellation of legal status, he will decide whether to continue in politics. Meanwhile, he said he is focused on his life as a rancher and farmer.