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Grotesque electoral fraud in Nicaragua

Grotesque electoral fraud in Nicaragua

by Toni Solo

Nicaragua's voters in November 9th's municipal elections were the victims of grotesque election fraud, prepared well in advance and predictably consummated, once the voting stations closed. The perpetrators and protagonists were the losing opposition Partido Liberal Constitucionalista (PLC) and their social democrat allies in the Movimiento Renovador Sandinista (MRS). These political forces were vigorously and unconditionally supported in their fraud by the nationally dominant anti-Sandinista local media and their allies in the international corporate main stream media.

The fraud had two main aspects. Firstly, voters were led to believe the PLC lost all but 37 of the 146 municipalities voting because the victorious Sandinista-led Unida Nicaragua Triunfa coalition rigged the count. In fact, the PLC lost so categorically mainly because Sandinista local authorities have done a better job on the whole than PLC led local authorities. But the PLC also lost so definitively because, as leading FSLN figure Bayardo Arce has pointed out the party was racked by an internal power struggle.

The bitter enmity between PLC caudillo Arnoldo Alemán and the US embassy backed PLC candidate for Managua, Eduardo Montealegre, stripped candidates aligned with Montealegre - 50% of the PLC slate - of campaigning resources and support. Nicaraguan analysts on both the right and the left tend to agree that the PLC's disastrous performance in the municipal elections resulted perhaps in large part from that conflict. But it was hidden from voters behind a fake display of unity that failed to mobilise PLC voters on election day.

Click to enlarge

Dora Maria Tellez of the PLC at a post election event with Eduardo Montealegre

That internal fraud - claiming the vote count was rigged when the PLC leadership had deliberately used a policy of neglect and dumb insolence to undermine Eduardo Montealegre - was compounded by an international fraud coordinated by the PLC's social democrat allies in the Movimiento Renovador Sandinista. Earlier this year MRS leader Dora Maria Tellez campaigned to prevent the party losing its legal status. That outcome resulted from a complaint by the PLC leader, Wilfredo Navarro, to the electoral authorities that the MRS was illegally constituted.

Then when it came to the election campaign the MRS did a complete about-face by openly allying itself with the PLC, the very party that had set out to strip the MRS of its legality. MRS leaders Dora Maria Tellez and Edmundo Jarquin publicly called on their party's supporters to vote for the PLC candidate in Managua, Eduardo Montealegre. Dora Maria Tellez has even appeared in public events with Eduardo Montealegre.

The crucial MRS contribution to the grotesque election fraud they and their right-wing allies have tried to carry out in Nicaragua has been their abiding influence in mobilising already highly prejudiced anti-sandinista opinion in the international corporate media. Leading MRS figures like Sergio Ramirez, Gioconda Belli, Carlos Fernando Chamorro, and Dora Maria Tellez have exploited long standing personal friendships with leading writers, academics and journalists in the Americas and in Europe to project their minority views as if they represented a significant body of opinion in Nicaragua, which they do not. Their alliance with the PLC shows they now have to piggy back politically in Nicaragua via alliances with right wing politicians they themselves have denounced as corrupt.

International corporate media, over-influenced by relentless MRS propaganda, unanimously condemned the Sandinistas for the disturbing violence that occurred in Managua and León and elsewhere following the elections. But none of the reports seem to acknowledge that it was violent PLC supporters who provoked a mass response from supporters for the sandinista FSLN government. The most serious individual incident occurred when PLC thugs pulled a Sandinista journalist from his vehicle beat and stabbed him, set light to his vehicle and then tried to throw him back inside the burning vehicle. Shamefully, that incident was ignored in the corporate international media's reports.

The incompetence and deceit of reporting on the elections can most clearly be seen in reports like that of the Independent's John Carlin. Carlin, in a fine example of biased editorial opinion dressed up as reporting, wrote "Mr Ortega prevented international observers from overseeing the elections and ensured that the Supreme Electoral Council was entirely in Sandinista hands."

Nicaragua's Supreme Electoral Council is composed of the same seven magistrates who oversaw the PLC presidential election victory in 2001. The same individuals also oversaw the municipal elections won overwhelmingly by the FSLN in 2004 and the FSLN presidential election victory in 2006. The Nicaraguan right-wing parties accepted those elections without demurral.

The Supreme Electoral Council is an independent power of the State, quite separate from the judiciary, the executive and the legislature. Currently it is composed of three magistrates nominated by the PLC, three by the FSLN and its president, who is not identified with either party. One of the PLC magistrates, Rene Herrera, is a close adviser of PLC leader Arnoldo Aleman.

Carlin's ignorant falsehood has been repeated by other international corporate media. It is doubly false since the Supreme Electoral Council, apart from being independent of the government, did invite election observers from all over Latin America. Around 150 elections observers monitored the elections and agreed they were well-organized, free and fair. These were professional electoral specialists from the Protocolo de Tikal group, the Protocolo de Quito group and the Council of Latin American Electoral Experts. Together they represented observers from the electoral authorities of around a dozen Latin American countries.

Both Eduardo Montealegre and his MRS allies like Dora Maria Tellez campaigned as if they were facing a national rather than a municipal election. The slogan they used was "todos contra Ortega" - everyone against Ortega. Daniel Ortega is Nicaragua's President leading the country's current FSLN government. The slogan echoed the MRS slogan "Ortega y Somoza son la misma cosa" - Ortega and Somoza are the same thing. The bizarre slogan suggests quite irrationally that there is no difference between the successful socially-oriented programmes of Daniel Ortega's government and the murderous greed of Nicaragua's former dictator Anastasio Somoza.

By transferring their irrational hatred of Daniel Ortega to what should have been a locally focused PLC campaign mobilising around issues relevant to the municipal elections, the MRS helped seal the fate of an opposition already seriously weakened by internal divisions. They have tried to cover up their politcally catastrophic failure with baseless allegations of fraud which have been contradicted categorically by authoritative international observers. There was indeed grotesque fraud involved in Nicaragua's municipal elections. Its perpetrators were Nicaragua's opposition parties desperately trying to cover up their own political suicide.


toni writes for Tortilla con Sal

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