Date: Sun, 27 Oct 1996 07:06:10 -0600
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Via NY Transfer News Collective * All the News that Doesn't Fit
Nicaraguan Election: Apparent Victory by Liberal-Conservative Alliance
By Toby Mailman, via NY Transfer News Collective, 23 October 1996
Managua, October 22 -- Although it has not been officially announced by the Supreme Electoral Council (CSE), it appear that Arnoldo Aleman, candidate of the Liberal Alliance, may be the next president of Nicaragua.
Starting with the first results, which were made public at 3:00 A.M. October 21, with 2.5% of the polls reporting, Aleman had an advantage of 48% over Sandinista National Liberation Front candidates Daniel Ortega's 39%. The pattern held, with the 6:30 A.M., October 22 report showing Aleman at 48% and Ortega at 38%. The remaining 14% was distributed over the other 21 political parties and alliances, with the Christian Path (Camino Cristiano - CC) party coming in third, and the Sandinista Renovation Movement (MRS) in eighth place for president.
The results, however, are not yet official. Despite statements by international observers such as the European Union, the Carter Center and the Organization of American States (OAS) that the elections were clean and fair, both the FSLN and the CC are questioning irregularities. These include the removal of ballots from the ballot boxes, altering of ballots, and altering of the reports sent by each polling place to the central counting location. In one case, confirmed by an observer delegation from Spain, the president of a polling location took six cardboard boxes filled with marked ballots to his house instead of sending them to the central counting office. Dr. Rosa Marina Zalaya, head of the Supreme Electoral Council (CSE), acknowledged receipt of the complaints, but did not comment beyond saying they would be investigated. The CSE is responsible for organizing and carrying out the elections, as well as for the final vote count and announcing the official winners.
Recriminations by those upset by Aleman's apparent victory have already begun. Luis Sanchez, one of the minority party presidential candidates, considers the Liberal Alliance and the FSLN polarizing parties of the extreme right and left, respectively. He said Aleman won because of the Nicaraguan people's "idiotic" fear of Sandinista power, and the failure of the smaller parties to unite to form a viable center alternative.
October 20, election day, got off to a very rocky start. In many of the over 9,000 polling places the paper ballots had not arrived by the scheduled 7:00 A.M. opening. People lined up as early as 5:00A.M. to be able to vote and then get on with their day, only to wait as lonh as six hours because the ballots hadn't arrived, or the team that was to staff the polling place hadn't appeared.
Voters waited with amazing calm and patience for the opportunity to cast their votes. Many polls did not open until 10:00 AM and some even as late 2:00 in the afternoon. In a few cases the wrong ballots for local elections were sent, or not enough ballots to serve all the voters registered at that polling place. Despite a call to keep the polls open the full 11 hours mandated, some closed at 6:00 P.M.,regardless of when they had actually opened, leaving some voters unable to cast their ballots. Other would-be voters simply got tired of waiting, or had to go to work and missed their opportunity.
In Managua the departmental counting office was in chaos from early Monday morning into the evening, with thousands of election workers trying to turn in ballot boxes which containing an estimated 24,000 votes. Some people were angrily demanding the pay they were promised for their election work. Many workers had been on duty since Saturday without sleep, and with little to eat or drink. At one point police were called in to control the crowd, angering them even more. Because of the confusion, some boxes of ballots were simply abandoned in the parking lot where people were lined up. However, despite the tension, most people once again showed incredible patience, and the day finally ended without incident.
The 1990 elections were less complicated. There was a clear winner by late on election night, and by 6:00 A.M. Daniel Ortega was making his concession speech. This time, because of the chaotic situation and the accusations of election fraud, official results have still not been released, and at this writing it is not known when they will be. There is no information about whether or when a concession speech will be made.
There is little chance the elections will be annulled, as some people are demanding. The 10% difference in the number of votes for Aleman and for Ortega, which amounts to approximately 100,000 votes, makes it unlikely that even correcting any alleged fraud will alter the final result of the elections.
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