Magazine article Americas (English Edition)

Observing Nicaragua's Elections. (OAS)

Magazine article Americas (English Edition)

Observing Nicaragua's Elections. (OAS)

Article excerpt

A TEAM OF SEVENTY-EIGHT OAS electoral observers fanned out across Nicaragua last November to monitor that country's hotly contested general elections. On election day, Secretary General Cesar Gaviria noted the long lines of voters patiently waiting at the polls--turnout was around 80 percent--and said the high participation showed the country's civic spirit.

"This shows that the Nicaraguan people appreciate their democracy and that there is a sense of obligation and duty to vote for the candidate and party of their choice," Gaviria told reporters.

The observation mission, headed by Santiago Murray of the OAS Unit for the Promotion of Democracy, noted some problems on election day, including delays in opening many polling places, but stressed that the voting process was peaceful.

"Nicaraguan citizens had full access to voting centers and they were able to freely exercise their right to vote," the mission stated. Noting the deeply polarized political environment, the mission recognized the efforts of the national Supreme Electoral Council to ensure that the conditions were in place for normal elections.

"It is to the great credit of the Nicaraguan people that not a single incident of political violence was reported on election day," Murray commented. "Nicaraguan citizens are not required to vote, but people chose to in massive numbers, and they did so peacefully."

The transmission of results also worked smoothly, Murray said, despite delays in entering the data once it was sent to Managua. On the day following the election, Daniel Ortega, Sandinista National Liberation Front candidate and former president, met with his opponent, Enrique Bolanos of the ruling Liberal Party, and conceded defeat, based on early returns. …

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