The sullied electoral process that led to President Daniel Ortega’s controversial reelection last November was tainted from soup to nuts, according to the final report by the EU’s Election Observation Mission.
“The Nov. 6 elections constituted a deterioration in the democratic quality of Nicaraguan electoral processes, due to the lack of transparency and neutrality with which they were administered by the Supreme Electoral Council (CSE),” the EU mission’s report reads, tskingly.
The report, released today in Managua by EU mission chief Luis Yáñez, a socialist parliamentarian from Spain, chronicles the folly of a polluted election system that was managed by an opaque, amateurish and clodpated CSE, which the EU says “displayed a regrettable lack of neutrality.”
Indeed, the EU mission’s report reads like a how-to handbook for organizing a banana republic democracy.
“The CSE, at every level, demonstrated scant independence from the ruling party and created unequal conditions for competition as well as outright obstructions to the opposition, who were prevented from having any effective representation within the election administration.”
The election process started on the wrong foot, and got worse from there, according to the EU mission.
“The trend for opacity became ever more pronounced as the electoral process advanced,” the report reads. “Instances of poor transparency included the refusal to accredit critical national observation missions; the obstacles and delays in the accreditation process for opposition party agents; the scant and tardy sharing of information regarding the format of official results forms and procedural manuals; the unusable quality of copies of official forms reserved for opposition parties; the practical inability of party agents to follow the results aggregation process; and the failure to publish results disaggregated by polling station, despite this being of direct relevance to citizens, political parties and civil society so that they may verify the accuracy of results.”
Not only is Nicaragua’s electoral system broken, it’s also sluggish, lumpen and resistant to betterment, the report says.
“The Nicaraguan legal framework for elections, practically unchanged since the general elections of 2001 and 2006, is adequate for holding democratic elections. Nonetheless, it is marred by some significant weaknesses, already outlined in previous European Union election observation mission reports, particularly with respect to legislation regulating political parties,” the report reads.
“The EU (mission) regrets that recommendations in this regard formulated by the 2001 and 2006 missions have not been reflected in reforms.”
The mismanagement of the busted electoral system by the CSE and the Supreme Court makes the situation even more blunderous, according to the EU mission.
“The electoral law’s ambiguous and cumbersome regulation regarding the legal representation and legal status of political parties is exacerbated by the significant powers it attributes to the CSE to rule on parties’ internal disputes, opening the door to excessive interference by the CSE and even the Supreme Court of Justice, which has affected political parties’ stability and had serious political consequences,” the report reads.
The EU mission notes that the Sandinista Renovation Movement (MRS), which had its legal status stripped by the CSE in 2008, has still not received any response to the appeal it made to the Supreme Court four years ago.
The report also questions the manner in which Ortega and his high-court comrades sidestepped the Constitution to allow the Sandinista leader to run for reelection last year, despite being banned by Article 147.
“Following a procedurally flawed process, President Daniel Ortega’s candidacy was declared to be constitutional by the Constitutional Chamber of the CSJ,” the report says.
Election day itself displayed the same tendency towards entropy.
“Election day unfolded in a peaceful manner, but was marred by inconsistent application of safeguards and transparency measures, as well as a context which made it difficult for opposition party agents to carry out their work,” the EU mission found. “These negative factors became increasingly evident over the course of the day, such that counting of votes and the beginning of aggregation of results on election night were particularly characterized by irregularities an absolute lack of transparency characterized the aggregation and publication of results, marking a serious deterioration in the quality of the electoral process.”
While the EU mission did not contest Ortega’s victory, it made it pretty clear that the process that led to his reelection bordered on cartoonish. Indeed, the EU followed up on its observations with 24 suggested reforms that Nicaragua needs to make to its beleaguered electoral system.
The opposition Independent Liberal Party (PLI) claims the EU report calls into question all the results of the election, and makes Ortega’s victory “illegitimate.”
The Sandinistas, meanwhile, appeared unruffled by the increasing international concerns about the state of Nicaragua’s democracy.
Sandinista official Jacinto Suarez responded to the EU mission’s report with party boilerplate about Nicaragua being a sovereign country that doesn’t have to listen to anyone. CSE chieftain Roberto Rivas, meanwhile, questioned the seriousness of the EU.
The EU, however, does appear serious. Germany has already announced it is pulling its aid to Nicaragua as a result of the elections, and Finland is expected to follow suit in the coming days.
The EU report is the third international admonishment of Nicaragua’s elections, following earlier reports by the Organization of American States and strong criticism from the U.S. State Department.