More than 20% of Nicaraguans who tried to vote Sunday were excluded from the polls because they did not appear on either of the two voter registries, according to a preliminary report by electoral watchdog the Institute for Development and Democracy (IPADE).
“Nearly 20% of the population is in legal limbo, they don’t exist on the active voter registry or on the passive voter registry, so where are they?” demanded IPADE director Mauricio Zúniga. “That shows that the active voter registry is not correct and the passive voter registry is poorly done.”
Zúniga said the exclusion level—similar to the 2011 presidential elections—is way too high, but he says it’s not yet clear whether it’s due to the Supreme Electoral Council’s (CSE) technical incompetence or an issue of political manipulation.
Zúniga says the issue will have to be studied further to determine where exclusion happened most frequently, what exact percentage of the population was affected by the registry problems, and who those voters were to get a clearer picture of what happened.
Overall, however, Zúniga says IPADE agrees with the CSE’s preliminary numbers presented early this morning by de facto electoral boss Roberto Rivas.
“There are no systematic or serious irregularities that put the preliminary vote results in doubt,” Zúniga says. “But there persists a lack of confidence in the CSE and that is an issue that needs to be resolved.”
Zúniga says IPADE also agrees with the CSE’s preliminary report of 57% participation in the elections, but says that number was calculated using only the active voter registry. If both the voter registries are added together, voter participation was an all-time low of 42%, and abstention was around 57%, Zúniga said.
Due to a change in the electoral law, the CSE this year posted two voter registries: active and passive. The active registry was a list of voters who have participated in the previous election. The passive voter registry is of citizens who have not participated in the previous two general elections, either because they have emigrated, died, been tossed in the pokey, or just don’t care about participating. Voters appearing on either registry were eligible to vote on Sunday, even though 1 in 5 Nicaraguans couldn’t find their names on either.
Ethics & Transparency blast elections
Another national election monitoring group that observed yesterday’s poll in an unofficial capacity (due the CSE’s refusal to accredit them), says the election was a total flop.
Election watchdog group Ethics and Transparency, a local affiliate of Transparency International, estimates that at least 198,073 Nicaraguans were denied the right to vote yesterday, and claims that abstention was 12% than the historical norm. As a result, the group says, the elections failed to provide the principle of “universal participation.”
Ethics & Transparency also claims that the elections failed to guarantee the principle of a “clean campaign” by allowing illegal candidates and partisan electoral judges.
Likewise, the watchdog group claims the electoral process “did not fulfill the minimum universal requirements on matters of transparency in vote-count and respect of people’s will.”
IPADE disagrees on that last point, claiming there is no indication that the public’s was not respected.
Roberto Rivas, meanwhile, disagrees with all criticism.
The magistrate today hailed his job performance as completely transparent and above all reproach.
Lázaro Cárdenas, head of the Organization of American States (OAS) observation team, said the elections were conducted civically and peacefully.
“I think there are advances we should recognize,” he said in a preliminary report today. “The OAS mission stresses the environment of civility in which the Nicaraguans could decide and execute their right to vote peacefully.”