Insisting there is no legal recourse available in Nicaragua, the opposition Independent Liberal Party (PLI) and civil society group Hagamos Democracia are taking their allegations of election fraud before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in Washington, D.C.
The two organizations claim President Daniel Ortega is violating the principles of democracy and must be held to account by the international community.
The PLI announced its decision to go before the Inter-American Commission on Wednesday, following the Supreme Electoral Council’s (CSE) refusal to even consider their appeal challenging the Nov. 6 election results. On Nov. 15, the PLI filed an official appeal before the CSE demanding that the electoral body publish the complete results of the elections, as required by law. The PLI argued that it was impossible to audit the elections because the CSE never published the vote tallies from the 12,900 voting stations across the country, as required by the electoral code.
The CSE, however, was unmoved by the PLI’s appeal to rule of law. It rejected the motion outright and quickly declared the official winners, ostensibly closing the book on the 2011 elections.
The EU electoral mission raised a sharp voice of protest at the CSE’s opaque, arbitrary and rushed handling of the final phase of the elections. The EU said the CSE’s mischievous handling of the elections comes as a serious reversal in the quality of Nicaragua’s democracy.
Pro-democracy advocacy groups in Nicaragua agree.
Roberto Bendaña, president of Hagamos Democracia, traveled to Washington, D.C. Wednesday to meet with Democratic and Republican lawmakers and U.S. media outlets to express his organization’s concerns about Nicaragua’s faulty election process and faltering democracy.
In addition to filing a complaint before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Hagamos Democracia is also working with the Latin American Network for Democracy, an umbrella organization comprising 300 civil society groups, to draft a letter to the Organization of American States (OAS) demanding the regional body invoke the Democratic Charter, an international instrument to defend democracy in the hemisphere.
Bendaña says the Latin American Network for Democracy feels the OAS’s failure to act on Nicaragua would set a seriously negative precedent for democracy in the region.
Bendaña says lawmakers on Capitol Hill are taking a renewed interest in Nicaragua and have “a shared sense of urgency” that something must be done to address the situation here.
“What went on in Nicaragua was highway robbery,” says Alex Sutton, director for Latin America for the International Republican Institute. “Everybody but the Nicaraguan government essentially agrees on this point. So now the question is, What can and will be done about it?
This, too, shall pass
Back in Nicaragua, the Sandinista administration is confident the current hubbub over the elections will soon pass. Their advice to the opposition is: don’t cry over spilled milk. President Daniel Ortega, in his first public appearance following the election on Nov. 8, said, “In elections you have to know how to lose and you have to know how to win.”
That’s since become the party line, sometimes with the added disclaimer that “no electoral system is perfect.”
The thrust of the Sandinistas’ argument is a sheepish admission that any anomalies that may have occurred during election process were due to design flaws in an imperfect “tropical democracy,” rather than political malfeasance or intelligent design.
Ortega’s main economic advisor, Comandante Bayardo Arce, says the opposition just needs some time to “mourn” their political death. But life goes on after the Kleenex run out, he says.
Arce dismisses the complaints of Hagamos Democracia and other civil society groups that he says are just “echo chambers” for the opposition.
As for the PLI and other opposition political parties, Arce says some squealing is to be expected. But it won’t last long.
“I think it’s logical that they react this way after the elections because they have to justify themselves to their sympathizers for not doing a better job (in the polls),” Arce told The Nicaragua Dispatch in a recent interview. “This is just the period of mourning, in which they mourn and bury their dead. Because when you lose an election, it is obviously a period of mourning.”
The former revolutionary leader said there are multiple expressions of mourning, and the opposition is exhibiting them all.
“There are some people who get hysterical and shout and yell, and there are others who go into denial, saying ‘This can’t be, don’t leave me!’ And there are others who remain in shock and mute. There is everything,” Arce said. “And then there are also people who realize what needs to be done. They get the coffin and prepare the coffee and resolve the problems of the funeral while the others are yelling.”
Arce concludes, “This period is normal, but things are already calming down.”