A group of 15 civil society organizations released a joint statement today demanding the removal of all de facto magistrates in the Supreme Electoral Council (CSE).
“A total change of all the magistrates in the Supreme Electoral Council is more imperative now than ever,” said Juan Carlos Narvaez, of electoral watchdog Ethics and Transparency, one of the 15 organizations that make up the Group to Promote Electoral Reforms.
Civil society has been calling for reforms in the CSE since the alleged electoral fraud in the 2008 municipal elections. Now the organizations say the situation has become increasingly worrisome following indications of infiltration by drug-trafficking cartels.
Narvaez said the charges of organized crime, drug-trafficking and money laundering filed this week against substitute magistrate Julio César Osuna demonstrates the “lack of controls over public official and the resources” of the state.
“The magistrates of the Supreme Electoral Council have been inefficient and incapable of administering this branch of government and the processes related to issuing state IDs, managing the voter registry and conducting elections,” Narvaez said.
Even before this week’s accusations filed against Osuna, the CSE was already “manipulating its most basic administrative function” by denying cédulas to “thousand of Nicaraguans” for political reasons and applying arbitrary fees to give IDs to “those who can pay,” Narvaez added.
“We demand the total change of all electoral officials to replace them with authorities who are trustworthy for everyone in society,” added Guillermo Medrano, of the Fundacion Violeta Barrios de Chamorro. “The election of new electoral authorities needs to be based on the principles of honesty, professionalism and experience, and not based on partisan interests.”
Medrano stressed the importance of depoliticizing the administration of state IDs by reforming the Law of Citizen Identity to allow “transparent controls for this process.”
“This will help restore some confidence in Nicaragua’s electoral system,” Medrano said.
Civil society’s repeated call for a total cleansing of the CSE echoes calls made earlier this week by opposition political parties and business leaders. The EU and Organization of American States (OAS) made similar calls in their electoral reports following the 2011 poll.
“We need to return credibility to a system that is without credibility,” said José Adán Aguerri, president of COSEP, the nation’s largest business chamber.