LatinNews Daily - 06 May 2022

NICARAGUA: New electoral rules stoke concern

On 5 May Nicaragua’s 92-member unicameral legislature, which is controlled by President Daniel Ortega’s ruling Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional (FSLN), approved changes to the electoral law.

Analysis:

The changes come as Nicaragua’s electoral system already remains subject to major doubt following the November 2021 general elections which produced a re-election victory for Ortega but was dismissed locally and abroad as a sham: the process was marked by the exclusion of genuine opposition parties; the incarceration of nearly 40 opposition figures (among them seven presidential contenders); absence of credible observers; and Ortega’s control of all state institutions, including the electoral authority (CSE). While the international community has long called for meaningful electoral reform in Nicaragua, the latest changes, which take place ahead of November 2022 municipal elections, have already been slammed by local civil-society groups such as Urnas Abiertas.

  • Among other things, the changes approved yesterday reduce the time period for political parties to present shortlists for departmental electoral councils (CED), municipal electoral councils (CEM), and regional electoral councils (CER), to five days from 15 days while the duration of the campaign period has been cut 42 to 20 days.
  • Urnas Abiertas warns that far from the meaningful electoral reforms urged in a 2020 resolution by the Organization of American States (OAS), which included demands for a restructuring of the CSE, the latest changes are designed to further prevent citizens’ oversight and transparency. It echoes concerns raised in response to reforms passed last year ahead of the November 2021 vote.
  • Following Ortega’s re-election victory, the FSLN is no doubt seeking to consolidate power at a local level. In the 2017 vote it won 135 out of 153 municipalities. The Partido Liberal Constitucionalista (PLC) of disgraced former president Arnoldo Alemán (1997-2002) took 11, Ciudadanos por la Libertad (CxL), whose legal status was cancelled ahead of the November 2021 vote, took six, and Alianza Liberal Nicaragüense (ALN), one.

Looking Ahead: Further indicative of the Nicaraguan government’s drive to close down civic space, on 4 May the legislature approved the closure of a further 50 NGOs. Local media outlet ‘Confidencial’ notes this was the largest number of NGOs outlawed in a single session since the Ortega government began cracking down on these organisations in late 2018. This brings the total shuttered since then to at least 218 on estimates by ‘Confidencial’.

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