By John Perry
[John Perry is based in Masaya, Nicaragua and writes for the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, London Review of Books, FAIR and other outlets.]
Sunday, November 6, saw the latest municipal elections in Nicaragua, with mayors and councilors elected for every city hall in the country, from the smallest to the largest (the capital, Managua). In the last general election, a year ago, 66% of voters took part. This time, not surprisingly, the percentage was smaller (57%), but still very respectable in international terms. Neighboring Costa Rica’s last local elections brought only a 25% turnout. Across the U.S., only 15 to 27% of eligible voters cast a ballot in their last local election. In the UK, turnout is usually about 30%, and only in Scotland have a few small districts seen turnout exceed 57%.
Here are some provisional results. On the day, 2.03 million valid votes were cast (some 80,000, or 3.79%, were judged to be invalid or spoiled). Of the total, 1.49 million (73%) went to the Sandinista coalition, and the remainder to opposition parties. The vote of Daniel Ortega’s party was sufficient to win the mayoral vote in every case, although the makeup of each local city council will depend on the proportionate split of the vote between parties. In the national tally, the next largest share of the votes was that of the PLC (Partido Liberal Constitucionalista): their 256,000 votes represented almost 13% of the total; four small parties took the remainder. There were four small towns, Ciudad Antigua, El Tortuguero, San José de los Remates and Santo Domingo, where the total opposition vote exceeded that for the Sandinistas, but in each case the vote was divided between different parties and the Sandinistas won the mayoral election.
That the governing party nationally won all 153 mayoral elections was no surprise, since it had been making steady advances over the last two decades. As Stephen Sefton shows, in 2000 the party captured the Managua council for the first time, together with majorities in 51 other municipal councils. By 2004 the number increased to 87; by 2008 it was 109; in 2012 it reached 127 and, by the last election (2017), 135. Given that in the 2021 general election the Sandinista party won 75% of the vote on a higher turnout (66%), Sunday’s result was fully expected. It reflects the governing party’s success in stabilizing the country after the violent coup attempt in 2018, the enormous program of social investment it is carrying out (for example, building 24 new public hospitals in the last 15 years) and the country’s successful emergence from the Covid pandemic with less damage to its economy than is the case in neighboring countries.
Of course, this is not how the election was seen by Daniel Ortega’s international opponents. Brian A. Nichols, the U.S. Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs, said in advance that “Nicaraguans will once again be denied the right to freely & fairly choose their municipal leaders. As long as opposition leaders remain unjustly imprisoned or in exile, and their parties banned, there is no choice for the Nicaraguan people in yet another sham election.” Unsurprisingly, he ignored the crimes committed by so-called “opposition leaders”, for which they had been tried and convicted. None of those “leaders” had ever run in local elections, nor were they members of registered political parties.
As is usually the case, reports in the corporate media followed the same line. The Washington Post, using an Associated Press report from Mexico City, said that the vote followed “an electoral campaign without rallies, demonstrations or even real opposition.” This was a complete lie, since Sandinista rallies took place throughout the country in the weeks preceding the election, as did far smaller opposition ones. The party that gained the most opposition votes, the PLC, held power only two decades ago and has won seats in every recent municipal election. On the Caribbean coast, the YATAMA party also won large numbers of votes.
Once again, the obscure body called Urnas Abiertas (“Open Ballots”) was quoted in corporate media, despite no one knowing who the people in this group are or where their money comes from (their website gives no clue). Its main argument was that people only voted because they were forced to. This relied on various messages from public sector bodies urging their employees to vote – but, of course, it was a secret ballot so they were at liberty to vote for an opposition party or spoil their ballot paper. In any case, anyone visiting polling stations (as I did) could see that people were voting enthusiastically, not out of compulsion. Oddly, in a claim contradicting its main one, Urnas Abiertas also ludicrously asserts that 82% of people abstained from voting and that “the streets were empty”. In an article for COHA, I showed that similar claims were baseless in relation to last year’s election. In any case, social media offered plentiful evidence of large numbers of people going to voting stations.
Once again, Nicaragua’s democratic achievement proves to be the “threat of a good example” to Western countries where, in what are claimed to be superior democracies, a far smaller proportion of the electorate can be bothered to vote.
By Nan McCurdy
FSLN Alliance Wins Municipal Elections with 73.7% of Vote
The United Alliance Nicaragua Triumphs, led by the FSLN, won all of the contests for mayor in the local elections held this past Sunday, November 6, with 99.13% of the results released on Nov. 7th. Supreme Electoral Council (CSE) President Brenda Rocha reported that the total votes were 2,108,003 million, of which 2,028,035 were valid and 79,968 null and void. Mayors and members of local municipal councils were chosen in the election. Of the total votes, the Liberal Constitutionalist Party (PLC) obtained 256,429 votes and the FSLN-led alliance received 1,494,688 for 73.7% of the votes cast. The National Liberal Alliance (ALN) received 93,203 votes, the Alliance for the Republic (APRE) – 79,993, the Independent Liberal Party-led (PLI) Alliance – 84,345 and YATAMA, the Indigenous party – 19,367 votes. Municipal council seats will be awarded to these parties based on proportional representation. [Municipalities include a city or town and the surrounding countryside.] Rocha pointed out that out of the total number of registered voters of 3,692,733, the total participation was 57.09% [very high for a local election]. For details: https://radiolaprimerisima.com/noticias-generales/destacado/fsln-gana-con-el-73-70-elecciones-municipales/ (Radio La Primerisima, 7 Nov. 2022)
Thorough Preparation Was Made for Municipal Elections
According to the Supreme Electoral Council (CSE), 3,722,884 citizens make up the national electoral registry and were eligible to exercise their right to vote. [Note: We don’t know the reason for the difference between these figures and the ones included above!] There were 3,106 Voting Centers; 7,931 Voting Stations; 18,000 electoral officers; 3,106 electoral attorneys and the accompaniment of 1,300 representatives of the National Council of Universities to ensure an agile and transparent electoral process, according to officials. The department of Managua has 492 Voting Centers (CV) and 1,853 Voting Stations (JRV). The capital city alone has 1,299 JRVs in 297 CVs. Everyone involved in the voting had received training. (Nicaragua News, 4 Nov. 2022; Radio La Primerisima, 5 Nov. 2022)
Conservation of Sea Turtles
The Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (MARENA) reported that, as part of the Campaign “Together We Conserve Our Sea Turtles”, this week the Guardabarranco Environmental Movement and the Army ensured protection for 22,613 hawksbill sea turtles during their arrival and nesting at Playa La Flor Wildlife Refuge in San Juan del Sur municipality. Likewise, the Biological Station for Monitoring and Surveillance of Sea Turtles released 1,057 baby hawksbill turtles on the shores of Río Escalante-Chacocente Wildlife Refuge in Santa Teresa, Carazo department. The National Campaign “Together We Conserve Our Sea Turtles” seeks the conservation of sea turtles with special emphasis on the hawksbill turtle, classified by the World Conservation Union as a critically endangered species. (Nicaragua News, 3 Nov. 2022)
Cremation Is Free in Nicaragua
The Ministry of Health inaugurated a National Cremation Center located in the Carlos Lacayo Manzanares Healthcare Center in Mateare municipality, Managua department. Financed by the General Budget, the center, which cost US$609,587, includes a morgue, urn storage, urn delivery room and cremation area. The Director of the Center, Tania Tercero, stated that “construction of the center, the first of its kind in the public healthcare system, is in response to the demand that we have observed in the population. The National Cremation Center offers its services free of charge and with the desire to provide peace and comfort to families in the most difficult moments.” (Nicaragua News, 2 Nov. 2022)
Nicaragua: Highest Percentage of Vaccinated Population in Central America
On Nov. 6 the Pan American Health Organization reported that with 91% of the population fully vaccinated against COVID-19, Nicaragua is the country in the Central American region with the highest percentage of fully vaccinated population followed by Costa Rica (82.1%); Panama (72.1%); El Salvador (66.4%); Honduras (56.7%); Guatemala (38.3%). (Nicaragua News, 7 Nov. 2022; https://ais.paho.org/imm/IM_DosisAdmin-Vacunacion.asp)
Inmates Receive Technical Training for Their Reintegration into Society
The National Technological Institute (INATEC) and the National Penitentiary System NSP “Jorge Navarro” of Tipitapa gave certificates on Nov. 3 to inmates who completed technical courses. The courses are offered so that prisoners can gain new knowledge and tools to face the challenges of life and reinsertion into society. “In 2022, 1,311 participants were prepared nationally, reaching a high level of knowledge in different courses,” explained Ronald José Moya Guevara, Deputy Director of the penitentiary system of Tipitapa. See photos: https://radiolaprimerisima.com/noticias-generales/generales/reos-se-capacitan-tecnicamente-para-su-reinsercion-en-la-sociedad/ (Radio La Primerisima, 3 Nov. 2022)
300 Families Receive Housing Lots in Villa Esperanza
The Managua Mayor’s Office delivered 300 lots to families as part of the emblematic Bismarck Martinez program. The lots were in the Villa Esperanza subdivision. “Three hundred families today receive this land so they can build their houses for the joy of their children and their families,” said Vice Mayor Enrique Armas. In the Bismarck Martinez program, 1,500 lots have been delivered in Managua and a total of 4,500 lots will be delivered in Villa Esperanza. In 2022, 2,000 lots will be turned over to families. “This Bismarck Martinez program has built and delivered 3,100 houses in Villa Jerusalem and Villa Flor de Pino.” Armas stated. (Canal 4, 3 Nov. 2022)
Substantial Progress in Comprehensive Care for People Living with HIV
The Ministry of Health reported that there have been advances in the care of people with HIV. In 2006 18,080 HIV tests were performed, and in 2022, 335,420 were performed. In 2006, 15,480 HIV tests were performed on pregnant women, and in 2022 as of September, MINSA has performed 178,547. The report also says that in 2006 mother-to-child transmission of HIV was 59 and in 2021 it was 4. In 2006, 348 people with HIV were receiving antiretroviral treatment, and in 2022 as of September, 6,697 people are receiving treatment free of charge. MINSA reports that in order to achieve these advances, the decentralization of care from hospitals to primary health care units has been developed, from seven comprehensive care clinics in 2006 to 107 clinics in 2022. Similarly, the decentralization of HIV diagnosis, from one national laboratory in 2006 to 17 in 2022. One hundred seven multidisciplinary teams of health workers have been formed and trained to provide care to HIV-positive persons in their municipalities. (Radio La Primerisima, 5 Nov. 2022)