Nicaragua limits opposition participation and international observation in elections

Daniel Ortega, dictator of Nicaragua, in a photo in December 2016 | Photo: Flickr / Presidency of El Salvador

Nicaraguan parliament on Tuesday approved a reform of the electoral system that reduces the chances that the next presidential and legislative elections in the Central American country, on November 7, will be free.

The National Assembly, dominated by the allies of dictator Daniel Ortega, has approved by an absolute majority reform proposals that limit the participation of opposition candidates, cancel the involvement of international observers and leave the elections under control absolute rule of the Sandinista dictatorship.

MEPs also approved the appointment of the seven magistrates of the Supreme Electoral Council (CSE), which will hold the November elections, in which Ortega seeks re-election for his fourth consecutive term. Six of those elected were appointed by the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) and one of them was nominated by the Conservative Party. In addition, the three deputy magistrate positions were allocated to a Sandinista and two candidates proposed by the Liberal Constitutionalist Party, also a supporter of Ortega.

Ortega’s allied MPs argue that the legislative changes are aimed at avoiding foreign interference in the elections and blocking the candidacies of people who the regime says attempted to carry out a coup by participating in protests against dictatorship in 2018.

The dictatorship’s proposed electoral reform was rejected by various sectors of the opposition, including political parties, civil organizations in Nicaragua and abroad, ten presidential candidates, the private sector and US officials, according to the newspaper. independent site La Prensa. Indeed, the changes contradict calls from the local and international community for free elections in the country.

Last October, the Organization of American States (OAS) released a resolution on the crisis in Nicaragua, with seven points Ortega should adhere to to ensure free, fair, transparent and competitive elections. Among them, the renewal of the CSE with independent judges and the improvement of participation and voting systems. The deadline set by the OAS for the implementation of these measures ends in May. The newly approved electoral reform therefore puts an end to the possibility of a legitimate transition of power, accuses the opposition.

“The Ortega Murillo family has chosen the way to impose magistrates on the CSE, faithful to their interests and, for this very reason, without credibility for the great majority of the Nicaraguan people”, denounces in a press release the Renewable Democratic Union (Unamos ), composed of Sandinista dissidents. “The Ortega Murillo wasted the opportunity to make the Nicaraguan electoral system more reliable, which, together with the laws that penalize and persecute the opposition, are the denial of the minimum conditions required inside and outside the country to achieve clean elections “, continues the group.

“The reforms do not guarantee free elections, they strengthen Ortega’s control over the Electoral Council and allow him to decide who can or cannot be his rival,” said opposition politician Eliseo Núñez.

The opposition is currently debating whether to participate in the November elections under unfavorable conditions or whether to abstain.

Dictator Daniel Ortega, a 75-year-old leftist guerrilla, ruled during the 1980s revolution and returned to power in 2007. He has been re-elected twice in a row after successfully passing constitutional reform. Ortega’s wife, Rosario Murillo, was named vice-president in the last election.

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