Six months before the general elections in Nicaragua, The Economist Analysis Unit (EIU) predicts that the regime of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo will win the November 7 elections. This despite public support for its party, the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), being at “an all-time low.” It’s a given that his control over all State institutions allows him to “manipulate” the rules of the electoral contest in his favor.
With a reform to the Electoral Law in which independent electoral observation is eliminated, potential opposition candidates are inhibited, electoral campaigning is left in the hands of the Police and the Supreme Electoral Council (CSE) stacked with Sandinista magistrates; the FSLN will go to the polls “with the rules of the game manipulated against the opposition,” says the EIU. So, it will not only hold on to the presidency, but it is likely to maintain “a qualified majority” in the National Assembly.
In its latest analysis of Nicaragua, the EIU, owned by the British group The Economist, warns that as the general elections get closer, social unrest will increase. “The national opposition and the international community are likely to oppose the legitimacy of the elections. However, the Sandinistas will maintain de facto power in all branches of government,” says the text that is published on their website.
The political domination of Ortega has its roots “in a growing authoritarianism,” points out EIU. Since Ortega returned to power 14 years ago, he has used the FSLN’s legislative majority to remove limits to reelection, strengthen control of the Executive branch, and reinforce the State’s security apparatus. His “practically unlimited” influence over state institutions has allowed him to remain in power, despite the political crisis that began with the massacre of the April Rebellion in 2018.
Diplomatic tension will continue
In foreign policy, the main challenge for the Ortega and Murillo regime will be the relationship with the United States, since “diplomatic tensions will continue until the political conflict in Nicaragua is resolved.” However, the Central American country must ensure its permanence within the Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA), of which the United States is the main trading partner and investor in Nicaragua.
After the state repression to the 2018 April Rebellion, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the United States Department of the Treasury applied sanctions against officials of the Sandinista regime for having participated in the massacre against citizen protests and corruption.
The list of those close to the regime of Daniel Ortega who have been sanctioned by the United States reaches 27 and includes nine public institutions or mixed entities, including the National Police. These sanctions have been joined by Canada, the United Kingdom and the European Union.
Meanwhile, in the US Congress the bill “Reinforcing Nicaragua’s Adherence to Conditions for Electoral Reform (RENACER)”, was introduced last Friday. The bipartisan proposal promises more pressure on the Ortega regime to allow “free and democratic” elections.
Slight economic recovery
With the economy in a precarious situation, the priority of the regime will be “to maintain macroeconomic stability,” predicts the British firm. “After three years of economic contraction, the Nicaraguan economy is poised for a moderate rebound in 2021.” Inflation will be “relatively moderate,” with an annual average of 4%, adds EIU.
Nicaragua’s economic recession that began because of the political conflict in 2018 extended through 2020 as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and a difficult hurricane season. Despite these challenges, the EIU notes, “that the real GDP contacted only 2% in 2020, low compared to the region.” This favorable result reflects the weak response of the Daniel Ortega regime to the pandemic and moderate impact of the hurricanes on production, the analysis explains.