nicaraguan elections – part 3

A man protects his head from the sun with an election poster of frontrunner Daniel Ortega. Managua, July 2011

The Nicaraguan elections are fast approaching. The past few days has seen around 500 journalists accredited, including foreign reporters. Apart from a few disparaging articles, the international press has been silent on these elections, in contrast to past contests. This should change for the last week, with the arrival of foreign reporters in time for November 6th. However, the standard of reporting  is likely to remain dire.

The latest ‘indictment’ of the FSLN comes from Larry Luxner, who seems to have taken over from Tim Rogers on the Tico/Nica Times in listing the ‘crimes’ of the Sandinistas (see here for the full article). For an unbiased view of what is happening in Nicaragua he goes to, eh, Tim Rogers, with his new publication, the Nicaragua Dispatch (one of whose funders is the Nicaragua-American Chamber of Commerce (AMCHAM), a free-market business outfit). Whilst the constitutional maneouvring carried out by the FSLN to get Ortega to stand again is highlighted, it seems the real reason for discontent with his candidacy is i) 55% of the population think the Sandinistas have done a good job and ii) they have invested much of the ALBA money and Venezuela aid in projects and programmes benefitting the poorest.

The biggest slight a journalist can dole out to any Latin American politician is winning through being populist. A similar attack appeared on Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, who romped home in the recent Argentinian Presidential election with 54% of the votes. She was able to achieve this sweeping victory according to the Washington Post by such underhand tactics as “economic policies rooted in heavy state spending whilst paying little heed to bondholders trying to collect billions of dollars in unpaid debt” and by presiding over an economy which has grown by 7.6% annually since escaping the clutches of the IMF, and “using the windfall to fund cash transfers to poor families, energy subsidies and other social programmes.”

Also during the week an 80 strong European delegation joined other foreign observers in Nicaragua, which includes the OAS and the Council of Electoral Experts of Latin America (CEELA). There are also Nicaraguan observer groups, including Ethics and Transparency, Hagamos Democracia and IPADE, which have been excluded from the official observer process because of funding links with organisations like the International Republican Institute. Nevertheless, the organisations say they will still field observers on the day.

Nicaraguans are counting down to the elections on November 6

Most commentators, from both the Left and Right, are now agreed on two things. Firstly, that the Sandinistas will win the Presidential elections, and may well receive enough support to win a majority in the National Assembly. Secondly, the popularity of Daniel Ortega stems mainly from his government’s social programmes and the healthy economy. Such has been the success of the programmes that Arnoldo Aleman, in one of the final rallies of the PLC campaign, announced that he would remain in the ALBA if he won.

We have covered this issue in some detail previously (see here). A more recent summary appeared on the Alborada.net website, in an article by former NSC trade union worker Victor Figueroa Clark (see here). The latest news of improvements arrived earlier this month, at the US Nicaragua Network reported:

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations said that Nicaragua has already met the first United Nations Millennium Development Goal by reducing its malnourished population by half. Nicaragua’s government programmes along with the projects on international and national organisations helped the country reach the goal. The goal had initially been set for 2015, but through various programmes focused on food security, including the Zero Hunger programme, poverty has been greatly reduced especially in the rural population. The FAO has worked with Nicaragua to finance the improvement of seeds and agricultural production.

Despite these major gains in the fight against hunger, the FAO estimates that nearly a million people still suffer from malnutrition.

The challenges facing the new government after the November 6 poll will be the subject of our final post on this year’s elections.



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