Date: Fri, 25 Oct 1996 05:51:23 -0500
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Date: 22 October, 1996
Nicaraguan Elections Update
From Casa Canadiense, 22 October 1996
At about 5pm. on October 21st Daniel Ortega held a press conference in which he called into question the results of these elections. He said that in the 1990 elections, the FSLN had no reservations in accepting the results but that this time, there were a series of anomalies found especially in the information given in the telegrams that carried the results from each of the voting stations. The FSLN carried out parallel elections with 300,000 votes and calculated that 60,000 of these votes were missing. Ortega called on the Supreme Electoral Council (CSE) to reconcile the results in the telegrams with the closing minutes (acta) from each voting station that record the final calculation of all the votes and ballots. Ortega clarified that the FSLN is not putting the CSE into question but because of the serious problems and alterations that have been found, they do not feel that the FSLN vote has been accurately represented. Ortega said that the FSLN will wait for the results of this review before giving their final word on the election results. He concluded with the message to Nicaraguans that, "we will continue to work with and for the poor, until the ultimate consequences."
Sandinistas have interpreted this final statement as an expression of the continued committment of the FSLN to work on behalf of the poor from their positions in the National Assembly. Some Aleman supporters, however, have interpreted this statement as a call to battle.
The most serious violation of the electoral law has been alleged to have occurred in Matagalpa where the president of the departmental CSE did not allow electoral police accompaniment when the telegrams were sent to the national CSE computing centre in Managua. This is being investigated.
The FSLN issued a press release on October 22nd, who's principal text reads; "Since the publication of provisional results was initiated by the CSE, we began to detect important discrepancies between this information and that from our scrutineers (fiscales), organizations, journalist friends and other sources that indicated that this information did not coincide with the reality of the vote that took place. As a result, we have suspended our recognition of the provisional results until we have the facts, voting station by voting station, from the Minutes of the Opening, Closing and Scrutiny.
For this reason we have formally solicited the CSE and the Departmental Councils to proceed with the maximum brevity possible, the most careful revision of the Minutes mentioned, as defined in article 137 of the Electoral Law.
We repeat one more time, our firm adherence to the principles of democracy and our willingness to accept the results of elections that are free, just, honest and transparent that clearly reflect the popular will, whatever the results may be."
Jimmy Carter and Oscar Arias, have both supported Ortega's request for the verification of the results. Dra. Rosa Marina Zelaya, the president of the CSE, has also announced that these will be carried out. The CSE has been clear to qualify all of its reportings of results as "provisional and preliminary". The international media, however, has carried the reporting of the provisional results as if they represented the final and decisive outcome. As of 6pm., October 22nd, results of 69.62% of the votes had been reported.
A radio news report early Wednesday, October 23rd, reported that the Departmental Electoral Council of Leon had spent 17 hours comparing the results represented on the telegrams with those given in the Minutes of each voting station and had discovered that 80% of the telegrams showed anomalies.
Osorno, the presidential candidate for Camino Christiano, the evangelical party which has so far taken third place standing, has called for the elections to be annulled. They have few allies for this stand which is generally considered to be extreme. 8 other parties, on October 22nd, joined the call for a reconciling of the results, as requested by the FSLN.
Many of these small parties are now in the position of having to pay back campaign funding and losing their legal status, not having been able to secure enough votes to win even one position in the National Assembly. The exceptions are ProNal (Proyecto National) and PNC (Partido Nacional Conservador), both of whom have so far secured some seats in the National Assembly and who are now making statements to the press that the results should be accepted even though there is a recognition of anomalies.
Thousands of workers from the voting stations, still as of October 22nd, were lining up waiting for their meagre pay for their three days of work. On October 21st, the treatment of these workers captured international media attention when the anti-riot squads were sent in and it was shown that it was through this turbulent situation that the election urns and bags of votes were being delivered to the CSE computing centres. On October 22nd there were denunciations that the riot squads were using their batons to hit some of the protesting workers as well as the use of electrical prods. The complaints of these workers was the initiation of a series of denunciations about serious shortcoming in this final and critical step in this long election process, which, up until now has been characterized by observors as being largely successful as a democratic and transparent process. Denunciations include the late arrival of ballots to many of the voting centres, the inadequate support of the workers who because of being tired and hungry had difficulties carrying out tallys that required alertness, inadequate transport of urns at very early hours of the morning in overcrowded and run-down old pick up trucks and the serious informality of the delivery of these votes. This observor witnessed one president of a voting station who refused to enter an already crammed vehicle and who remained, instead, at 5am. to wait in the road with her bags of votes for the next possible vehicle. There seems to have been a very severe lack of attention to the details that would secure an accurate and efficient transmission and representation of the votes gathered on election day. All of the denunciations that are flowing with increasing frequency in these days following the elections, in large part, arise as a result of these deficiencies which also clearly represent several opportunites for fraud.