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Manuel Orozco: Rejection of the regime will continue after January 10

The political scientist warns that national and international pressures could increase, while the regime seeks a “compromise”

Daniel Ortega waves a Nicaraguan flag. On the left is Rosario Murillo, his wife, vice president, and government spokesperson. Photo from government website “El 19 digital”

Redacción Confidencial

4 de noviembre 2021


An opinion poll conducted in October by the Costa Rican firm CID Gallup, which was hired by CONFIDENCIAL, revealed that 76% of the population considers that the country is going “in the wrong direction” and the percentage of those who consider Ortega's reelection illegitimate, without the participation of the opposition, increased to 78%.

Political scientist Manuel Orozco, analyst of the Inter-American Dialogue, explains that this opinion reflects the existence of a pro-democracy political bloc that will continue to manifest itself after January 10, 2022. “One of the strongest elements hurting Daniel Ortega is not the international community, but the popular rejection of Nicaraguans towards him, and he will feel it much more next year,” said Orozco. 

In an interview with the program Esta Semana, the expert warned that the scenario that awaits Nicaragua after the fraudulent elections to be carried out by the Sandinista Front will be “tense” and one can foresee the “continuity of this police state and the combination between the demoralized population, dissatisfied by what is happening to their right to vote on the one hand, as well as the international community pressuring on the other hand, which could make Daniel Ortega try to negotiate something”. 

Among the pressures Orozco foresees coming for the Ortega regime are, firstly, the disregard of the elections, as well as the approval and passage of the Renacer Law, and, from the European Union, the reconsideration of its commercial relationship with Nicaragua. “The pressure will continue to limit political spaces in Nicaragua, so that the regime discontinues its level of repression in the country,” he said. 

The results of this CID Gallup survey revolve around a block of opinions against the Ortega-Murillo regime, ranging from 65% to 78% of the population. 65%, for example, demand the release of political prisoners and would vote for the opposition if they could participate in the election. Next, 76% say that the country is going in the wrong direction and 78% consider that Ortega's reelection will be illegitimate without the participation of the opposition. Is this the (public) state of opinion or is it a political block in the country?

It is both; first of all, it is the (public) state of opinion that has been consistently maintained since the 2018 crisis, all the polls have always revolved around more than three quarters of the population saying that the country is going in the wrong direction, and when asked about the elections, the vast majority, from two thirds to a little more, the trend has always in favor of an opposition movement. Now, as such, that opinion represents a bloc, it is the bloc that has been more recently called blue and white, which is the bloc that wants a democratic change through elections.

How can support for Ortega and the Sandinista Front be evaluated according to this survey, which ranges from 9% to 27%? 9% sympathize with the FSLN party, but more than 17% would be willing to vote for Ortega. 23% say the country is on the right track and 27% demand that political prisoners be brought to trial.

What this reflects is that there is a political base loyal to Daniel Ortega, which has historically been around 10%. Then, there is a group that oscillates between 20% and 25%, even up to 28% in some cases, which reflects political clientelism and the politics of fear, remember that the Government has used a process of intimidation and vote bullying, buying political support, buying loyalty, in the last ten years especially. 

There are political favors behind this with clientelism, which is predominantly composed of economic favors, such as when you grant a new position to a middle leader, and that is why you see these variations. His reach is basically 10%, what he manages to gain above is through clientelistic buying. 

Loss of support

The survey reflects a loss of support to the Frente Sandinista, a very low sympathy and support to the political parties. There is a rejection of the system and the regime. However, more than 50% say that it is very probable that they will vote on November 7, how can these two apparently contradictory positions be explained? 

There are two explanations; the first one is that Nicaraguans have historically voted in high numbers. For this year, my projection was 40% abstentionism, your survey confirms that the numbers are going to be around there. Previously, abstentionism has not been so high. However, the magnitude of the problem, the politics of fear, the intimidation people are facing, which basically is telling them that they have to go and vote, but they have to go and vote for the Sandinista Front, all this generates the intention of abstention. 

Secondly, there are three very valuable things for Nicaraguans: life, family and the right to vote. And the right to vote is a very sacred issue, and people know that it is being taken away, that it will be stolen, but from their point of view, that does not mean that they will not go out and vote, they have the intention to go down the right path. In a way, what the survey is telling you is, either you abstain or you exercise your right to vote, even if they are going to steal it. 

The Pro Democracy Movement is waiting to see what will happen on November 8. Can the international community; the OAS, the European Union, the United States, have an impact on the national crisis with their actions? Is this a well-founded expectation or is it overestimated?

The international community is not going to embargo Nicaragua economically or intervene in the country, but it is going to apply all possible pressures including, for example, the disavowal of the elections, as well as the approval of the Renacer Law; the European Union is going to reconsider its commercial relationship with Nicaragua, among other things. I believe that pressure will continue to be exerted to limit Nicaragua's political spaces, so that it discontinues its level of repression in the country.

How do you see the political scenario of the country after January 10, when Daniel Ortega's reelection government takes office through these votes without political competition?

The result of all this will be a more polarized country, a demoralized population, a rather complicated economy, because the Government has used public expenditure in an irresponsible way. So, it is going to be a very tense scenario, where Daniel Ortega is going to try to articulate some kind of measures to try to compromise. Let us remember that Daniel is a transactional politician and in that transaction he will try to maintain his political position at least in the next 12 months, to execute his political relay to Rosario Murillo. 

For that block of 65% to 70%, that we talked about at the beginning and is portrayed in this survey, what can they expect in terms of a political solution to this crisis, under the police state that we presume is going to be maintained or that can be reinforced after January?

The expectation is the continuity of the police state in that short term, and the combination between the demoralized population, discontented by what is happening, with their right to vote on the one hand, as well as the international community pressuring on the other hand, looking to make Daniel Ortega try to negotiate something. 

What one can expect Daniel Ortega to ask for, to have the elections recognized is unlikely, but to have people work with him, is one of the possibilities and somehow Nicaraguans are going to have to learn to deal with a dictatorial regime, but with the outlook of trying to transform this in the long term. 

The reality is that the continuity of this dynasty is not sustainable, however, it is painful and Nicaraguans have discovered that the price they are paying is very high, and I believe that one of the strongest elements hurting Daniel Ortega is not the international community, but the popular rejection of Nicaraguans towards him, and he is going to feel it much more next year.

This article was originally published in Spanish in Confidencial and translated by our staff



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Redacción Confidencial

Redacción Confidencial

Confidencial es un diario digital nicaragüense, de formato multimedia, fundado por Carlos F. Chamorro en junio de 1996. Inició como un semanario impreso y hoy es un medio de referencia regional con información, análisis, entrevistas, perfiles, reportajes e investigaciones sobre Nicaragua, informando desde el exilio por la persecución política de la dictadura de Daniel Ortega y Rosario Murillo.