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Cablegate: Cse President Claims Elections Will Be

VZCZCXYZ0040
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHMU #2343/01 2961857
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 231857Z OCT 06
FM AMEMBASSY MANAGUA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7971
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC

C O N F I D E N T I A L MANAGUA 002343

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR WHA/CEN, USAID FOR LAC MARK SILVERMAN

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/20/2016
TAGS: PGOV PREL KDEM NU
SUBJECT: CSE PRESIDENT CLAIMS ELECTIONS WILL BE
TRANSPARENT, COMPLAINS ABOUT QUICK COUNT


Classified By: Ambassador Paul Trivelli for reasons 1.4 (b and d)

1. (C) Summary: Ambassador and the magistrates of Nicaragua's
Supreme Electoral Council (CSE) exchanged concerns regarding
the November 5 national elections during a recent meeting at
CSE headquarters. Ambassador urged the magistrates to assure
that eligible voters can obtain the necessary voting
documents before election day, allow international and
national observers access to all key locations, and oppose
any self-declaration of candidates before the official
release of vote results. Ambassador also expressed concern
regarding the apparently inequitable distribution of voting
station official slots to the different political parties.
The magistrates complained about Etica y Transparencia's plan
to conduct a quick count, claiming that Etica is not
impartial towards the CSE and any alternative tabulation of
the vote could result in civil disturbances. End Summary.

2. (C) Ambassador and emboffs met with CSE magistrates on
October 19 to discuss issues related to the November 5
national elections. The magistrates came to the meeting
sporting casual clothing and CSE observation vests -- no
doubt to show their dedication to performing the grubby field
work necessary to ensure fair elections. In addition to CSE
president Roberto Rivas, FSLN-affiliated magistrate Emmet
Lang (seated at Rivas' right hand), and PLC magistrates Luis
Benavides and Rene Herrera were present, among others.
(Comment: At one point during the conversation, CSE chief of
staff Rodrigo Barreto delivered a folded message to Rivas.
Lang took the message from the table in front of Rivas,
opened and read it in full view of the group. Lang's actions
clearly demonstrated who really controls the CSE. End
Comment.) In general, the meeting was cordial, and Barreto
delivered our observation credentials after the discussion
concluded.

Distribution of Voting Documents
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

3. (C) Ambassador commented that the elections can be judged
free and fair only if voters are able to obtain the
appropriate documents and exercise their suffrage. He asked
Rivas if the CSE plans to use a bus and motorcycles provided
by IFES to deliver voter/national ID cards (cedulas) and
supplementary documents to voters in remote areas. Rivas
equivocated, answering only that the CSE plans to open up
municipal distribution centers on October 26-29 to facilitate
the distribution of cedulas and supplementary documents. He
commented that the magistrates had discussed shipping
unretrieved cedulas and supplementary documents to the
appropriate voting stations on election day, but that plan
was judged impractical due to security considerations. Rivas
stated that voters would not be able to use a colilla
(receipt given by the CSE when a voter applied for a cedula)
because colillas do not have adequate anti-fraud features.

4. (C) Ambassador asked how the CSE plans to publicize its
special weekend to facilitate cedula/supplementary document
retrieval for voters. Rivas responded by asking for
additional resources for a publicity campaign. Ambassador
answered that IFES prepared a publicity campaign over two
months ago, but the CSE has failed to approve it. Rivas
became flustered, snapping at Rodrigo Barreto, and offered a
lame excuse that the IFES campaign stressing cedulas is not
really appropriate for that project.

Observer Access
- - - - - - - -

5. (C) Ambassador urged the magistrates to allow
international and national observers access to all key
locations, including the vote tabulation center. Rivas
responded that the CSE has accredited over 16,000 national
observers and 600 international observers. He claimed that
"these elections are completely open, the CSE has nothing to
hide." The vote tabulation computer center is a small place,
Rivas explained, although the CSE will permit access to a
limited number of international and national observers as
well as official party poll watchers (fiscales). (Comment:
Apparently Rivas has finally acquiesced to pressure from the
OAS, European Union, USG and others to permit limited access
to national observers to the vote tabulation center. End
Comment.)

Self-Declarations of Victory on Election Day/Reporting Results
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
-


6. (C) In response to rumors that FSLN candidate Daniel
Ortega may use early vote results (expected to favor his
party) to proclaim himself the victor, Ambassador asked the
magistrates not to give credence to any such declarations.
Rivas stated that the CSE does not have any authority to
affirm a candidate's victory until the official results are
determined. (Note: Benavides told the media late last week
that "Nicaragua will have a new president in the morning" on
November 6. End Note.)

7. (C) Rivas commented that the CSE will post incoming vote
tallies on its web site, and that 85 percent should be
reported by 10:00 a.m. on November 6. Regarding the process
of official challenges ("impugnaciones") by party poll
watchers, Rivas stated that he expects only about 140-150
voting stations (JRVs) out of over 11,000 will face
impugnaciones. According to Rivas, most of the impugnaciones
will be "stupid complaints," (e.g., a red car was parked
outside the JRV) and only about 15-20 will be serious cases
requiring resolution at the national level.

JRV Member Allocations
- - - - - - - - - - - -

8. (C) Ambassador noted that the distribution of official
positions at the JRVs does not appear equitable and asked if
the parties have any way to appeal the decisions. (Note:
Each JRV is comprised of three members: a president, first
member, and second members. Typically, the president and
first member positions are allocated to designees from the
two traditional parties (PLC and FSLN), while the second
member positions are split between the "minority parties."
The Sandinista Renovation Movement (MRS) has protested the
allocation of second member seats, claiming that 40 percent
were given to the Nicaraguan Liberal Alliance (ALN), 40
percent to the Alternative for Change (AC), and only 20
percent to the MRS. End Note.)

9. (C) Rivas responded that the Departmental Electoral
Councils (CEDs) appoint the members of the Municipal
Electoral Councils (CEMs), which in turn appoint the JRV
officials. According to Rivas, the parties cannot appeal
this "complicated procedure," although he claimed that the
MRS simply did not nominate officials in areas where the
party does not have a strong presence.

10. (C) Ambassador asked Rivas if the CSE will also train the
alternate JRV officials, and he answered that he hopes the
proprietary members will share their training with their
alternates. Rivas claimed that JRV officials in Colombia do
not receive any training at all, only instruction manuals.

Magistrates Rail Against EyT Quick Count
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

11. (C) Rivas, Lang, and Herrera all strongly criticized
plans by Etica y Transparencia (EyT) to conduct a quick count
for the presidential election on November 5. Rivas commented
that the quick count plan "bothers" him and worried that the
results could be inaccurate. Herrera warned that if the
"real" election results do "not match people's expectations"
but the quick count does, the conflicting information could
"create a dangerous situation." Lang bluntly stated that the
CSE does not trust EyT due to a history of conflict between
the two institutions and "biased" reports released by EyT in
the past. Lang claimed that EyT published a quick count
after the 2001 elections that was eight points off the actual
results. The magistrates did not respond to repeated offers
to have EyT electoral experts explain the quick count
methodology.

12. (C) Comment: Lang is mistaken. The EyT 2001 quick count
results were only .02 percent different from the final vote
tally, and the CSE actually requested that EyT release the
quick count results before the release of the official vote
tally to validate their own findings. The FSLN and PLC will
have an unfair advantage in that they will know, through
their hacks in the CSE, the results of the quick count before
the other parties since EyT is legally bound to share the
results with the CSE before any release. Local IFES director
Rafael Lopez Pintor, who has been providing technical
assistance to the CSE for almost a year, earlier told emboffs
that the magistrates are behaving in an obstructionist manner
because they are afraid that the pact parties (PLC and FSLN)
will lose the elections and they will be replaced -- losing
their obscenely bloated salary packages and benefits.

Without the constant vigilance of the donor/observer
community and Nicaraguan civil society groups, the utterly
politicized CSE would surely have made far less than the
already minimal efforts to ensure free, fair, and transparent
elections.
TRIVELLI

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