On Sunday November 6, local elections in Nicaragua will take place to elect authorities in all municipalities of the country. However, this election process, like the November 7, 2021, farce, will be marked by a series of elements that affect its legitimacy and transparency. Some of them are derived from the electoral statutes themselves and its configuration in favor of the Sandinista Front, and others by the circumstances that worsen daily with a dictatorship that intends to continue imposing itself using coercion.
The electoral reform of May 2022, as a complement of the 2021 counter-reform, ended up strengthening the absolute control over the electoral system, and the establishment of a totally asymmetrical competition among the parties that “interact,” within a system that in reality is already a “single party” system in which only Ortega’s party has access to positions of power be it through the coopted electoral administration, or manu militari. The municipalities they do not win by means of the votes, they usurp and violently assault.
The Ortega-Murillo regime suffers from a condition of illegitimacy both internally, by the rejection of the citizenry to the 2021 electoral farce, reflected in the abstention of more than 80% of the electorate, and externally after the lack of recognition by most of the countries of the region of elections carried out without respect for fundamental rights. This illegitimacy was also declared by the Assembly of the Organization of American States.
This condition will inevitably extend to the municipal process in virtue that the same repressive elements persist: a de facto state of siege imposed on the streets, annulment of political rights, more than 220 political prisoners and an electoral system without credibility or independence.
The municipalities’ capacity for self-determination was buried by the Ortega administration, with the municipal autonomy becoming a concept without impact or effects in practice, in such a way that the decisions made by the city councils originate from El Carmen (the presidential offices and residence), and this makes them an important element in the configuration of the tyranny in power.
Since its return in 2007, the Ortega regime knew that the control of local power was essential to increase its political power and exercise coercion from the state, family, party, on the local level through the City Halls. The first electoral fraud of 2008 had that purpose and their control of most of the municipalities was reflected by the massacre of 2018: mayors, city council persons and FSLN political secretariats participated in the commitment of crimes against humanity, plotted at the highest spheres of the state, according to GIEI Nicaragua.
These municipal “elections” this coming Sunday are not a mere formality in the consolidation of the totalitarian dictatorship of the “single party” regime. On the contrary, they are a key tool to complete the materialization of absolute control of all political and social spaces that will allow the Ortega-Murillo family to have greater stability and viability without any counterweight and internal opposition.
In this manner the dictatorship in power has denaturalized the electoral process that in Nicaragua stopped being since some time ago a democratic instrument by virtue of which the voters elect or change their authorities, becoming a tool used by the regime to “legitimize” its despotic acts and continue on its path towards the perpetuation of power.
The municipal electoral farce will mark the absolute illegitimacy of the dictatorship at all levels, not only from the perspective of the political regime, but also from the perspective of the localities that are now an instrument in exercising totalitarian power.
What we will see on Sunday is more proof that the dictatorship is isolated and in a crisis with a solitude from which it could only overcome with the illegitimate use of force and maintaining the Police State in the streets, which they also intend to consolidate this weekend, and which has manifested itself with the absence of any electoral environment.
The exclusion of citizens’ participation in elections devoid of any kind of guarantees of respect for the vote and the validity of political rights, is an action that will once again expose the dictatorship and above all its isolation, which I believe sooner rather than later will be reflected in its fall from power.
This article was originally published in Spanish in Confidencial and translated by Havana Times.