With only three weeks left until the November 7th voting, the governing FSLN (Sandinista National Liberation Front) has put out a call to the State employees and party loyalists to organize as “mobilizers” in order to “guarantee the Sandinista vote”. This is all part of their plan to promote the idea of a “massive vote” and justify the already predetermined victory of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo, giving it the appearance of a triumph with massive support.
The illusion is contradicted by a CID-Gallup poll carried out in September and released this week. The poll registered an approval rating of only 8% for the FSLN, the lowest rating in the past 30 years. According to that poll, only 20% of Nicaraguans intended to vote for Daniel Ortega.
Julia (not her real name) is a State employee in Nicaragua. She’s been called on to be a “mobilizer,” and confided to Confidencial: “these calls are already going out” to other public employees and sympathizers.
She added that the party seeks “people they trust”; those called “have already served as FSLN activists in other municipal or national elections.”
The “mobilizers” are tasked with assuring that party members and sympathizers leave their homes and get to their designated polling places. It includes “transportation” which is a traditional offer from the party on voting day. However, in the case of the FSLN, past elections have included the use of government resources, such as paid time for the public employees, and the use of State vehicles and fuel.
The worker confirmed that the “mobilizers” assigned by the FSLN aren’t only party members, but workers in the State institutions and even from City Hall offices.
“A mobilizer has the job or duty, whichever you want to call it, of going out to bring people to their polling place. People you know are Sandinista,” Julia affirmed.
She added that they also have the task of “convincing those who used to be Sandinistas, but now may be doubtful about giving their vote to the party.”
“Preparations are now underway”
Maria (also not a real name) is a relative of one of those called to mobilize. She states that her mother, an FSLN member, was tapped to “secure the vote”, and has even participated in “meetings, where they prepare them to convince the Sandinista who no longer wants to vote, because many have deserted.”
Maria’s mother has commented to her that some members serving as “mobilizers” receive in-kind or cash remuneration for their daily expenses. These could be basic grains or payments between 150 and 300 cordobas (US $4.25 - $8.50).
“My Mom is one of those who says she won’t touch the money they offer her for expenses, because she’s not there out of self-interest but because she sympathizes with the party,” Maria stated.
State resources used for the mobilization
Julia specified that State and local government resources are used to transport the “mobilizers” and sympathizers.
“We believe that this year the practice will be the same as in previous elections, when the mobilizers have been transported in State vehicles or in those belonging to the Mayors’ offices,” she indicated.
Manuel is an older man of 65 who asked to be identified with an assumed name. He assured that “mobilizers” transported him to the polls during the 2016 elections, even though he isn’t now and wasn’t then a member of the Sandinista party. He felt it was a problem that “those people (the mobilizers)” come to get you at home, without your having requested it. “I had to go at the hour that they said, and there was a certain pressure, because I knew they were Sandinistas.”
Manuel added that among the “mobilizers” he could identify were FSLN members and workers from Managua’s City Hall.
“One more activity in a fraudulent process”
Attorney Gonzalo Carrion, of the “Nicaragua Nunca +” (Nicaragua Never again) Human Rights Collective, affirmed that the groups they call “mobilizers” are part of a practice that the Sandinista Front has been implementing for several years. They “get people in their homes, they transport them, they take senior citizens, people with disabilities, all part of their project of assuring votes.”
He noted that such action is part of the fraudulent process that’s been put in march for November, with no clarity on where the resources are coming from to mobilize or pay the people.
Carrion added that bringing together mobilizers in a context where polls show almost 70% of the population disapproving of the Ortega regime, is a reflection of the “haste and serious problems they’ll have in getting their own people out to vote; hence, they’re in urgent need of those mobilizing centers.”
Yader Morazan, also an attorney, felt that if these groups the FSLN creates were “simple mobilizers within a political structure, they’d be reasonably acceptable.” However, he emphasized that such people are really violating principles of universal suffrage, which establishes that the process should be equal, direct, secret and also free.
Morazan recalled that Article 30 of the Electoral Law, which holds Constitutional status, recognizes the free exercise of the right to vote. “Liberty resides precisely in not having any kind of coercion,” he commented.
He clarified that the mere fact of having someone come to look for you at home is a form of coercion, because the person coming to look for you is part of a coercive body, made up of those who follow a party led by rulers who’ve been accused of violating Nicaraguans’ human rights, and even of crimes against humanity.
“Within an electoral process, everything that sways your intention in any way, like coming to get you at home, is a form of threat, which is an electoral crime. (…) It limits your freedom; that is, the element of freedom that universal suffrage should have; further, by exercising coercion, you’ve entered into an electoral crime,” he affirmed.
Within the Manual for the Voting Process, released by the Supreme Electoral Council, there’s no mention nor recognition of “mobilizers” as a means to guarantee the exercise of voting.
Opposition organizations and those from Nicaraguan civil society have been calling on Nicaraguans since last month to unite in an “electoral strike” on November 7th, the date set for the general elections. Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo are using this process to assure their reelection as president and vice president.
The opposition has issued a call to Nicaraguans not to go to the polls, but to denounce from their homes “that this process is fraudulent, and the results are illegitimate.”
They point out that these elections have been fraudulent since their inception, because authorities never offered even minimal conditions for the free exercise of choosing and being chosen. They never carried out the profound electoral reforms recommended by international organizations, and now continue holding over 150 opposition leaders, activists and critics of the Ortega regime in jail, among them seven former presidential hopefuls.