here we go again, again

It was the election that never happened. Despite all electoral observers (apart from the US) declaring it free and fair, you will search high and low for mention of Nicaragua’s elections in 1984 described as their first free and fair polls. Usually this is supplanted by the 1990 elections, when the Sandinistas lost.

Why have the 1984 elections been air-brushed, Trotsky-like, from the pages of history, at least according to the media? Mostly it’s to do with what Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman called the ‘manufacturing of consent’, in their book of the same name which used the 1984 elections as a case study. The media, particularly the US media, followed the government line. When it was obvious to all that the FSLN had overwhelming support in the run up to the elections, the US engineered for the main opposition, under the leadership of Arturo Cruz, to pull out to discredit the elections (Cruz has since stated he regretted this action). When the Sandinistas then won 67% of the vote, roughly reflecting their opinion poll support, the US claimed the elections were unfair.

We have seen a similar pattern in the election this week. Ever since the turn of the year the opposition, as the Sandinistas have climbed steadily in the polls, have said time and again that the polls would be rigged, and that there would be violence if they lost. This time the Sandinistas have received 62% of the vote, again roughly reflecting their opinion poll figures. And as night follows day, violence erupted, mostly instigated by opposition PLI protests. This has enabled some media commmentators to try to discredit the elections, to dismiss those election observers who have pronounced the process fair, and then to blame the Sandinistas for the violence. They are also calling for the US government not to recognise the new Ortega administration.

Interestingly one person who has been quoted by the media is Arturo Cruz Jr, son of the 80s opposition leader, contra and now an academic in Nicaragua. He said the results reflect a sea-change in Nicaraguan politics, with independents transferring their loyalities to the FSLN.

So why the focus on Nicaragua? How much of a threat can Nicaragua be? There is undoubtedly an element of personal hatred towards the Sandinistas by much of the US Right, who haven’t forgiven them for daring to stand up to their imperial aggression in the 80s. But objectively Nicaragua’s relations with the US, and the policies the Sandinistas followed in their first term, were business-friendly, even if they were accompanied by effective social programmes. A right wing analysis of the 2007-11 Ortega government can be found here, from Richard Feinberg, one of Clinton’s policy advisors. Despite the obvious political posturing, Feinberg thinks the US has little to fear from a new Ortega government.

But that word, fear, is the key. It is not the Sandinistas past record which worries the US Right, but what the next five years might hold (see here for the list of potential challenges we identified for the incoming Sandinistas). And it is again fear which the media is trying to create. In Manufacturing Consent Chomsky and Herman identified ‘fear’ as one of the five key ways that the media’s output is shaped.

If the US media is making the running, which is then picked up by other international media, what has been the response of the US Left? Well, up to now, not a lot. Left of centre think tank COHA in Washington, allied with the progressive wing of the Democrats, is yet to utter a word. ZNet, far more radical, again is silent. The truth is, since the Sandinistas lost the elections in 1990, Nicaragua has been an embarrassment to much of the Left. Any analyses are few and far between, and because of the scarcity, it is hard for anyone to follow what is happening in the country, never mind trying to come to some sort of political conclusion.

Apart from individual blogs and articles (see here for a view from Douglas Haynes on Upside Down World) the same message has been going out on all channels – the Sandinistas cannot win fair elections, so if they have won, then the elections are unfair.

For a commentary from Tortilla con Sal on post-election events

Commentary on the claims of electoral fraud and the attitude to the elections of the US government


One Comment on “here we go again, again”

  1. Brian says:

    Excellent analysis. I agree entirely. I have linked to this post on my Twitter. @brian_north

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