Nicaragua trapped by manual voting


Nicaragua’s manual voting system casts doubt over results. Picture: INEJ

A few days ago Nicaragua went to the polls and there were no surprises. Manual voting together with an obsolete electoral system in terms of voter registration, logistics and organization, gave the country and the world unreliable results. Once again, the international perception on the country’s elections was affected.

Vices old and new came to light everywhere in Nicaragua. Identity theft; voters who voted twice, three and even four times; delays in the setup of polling stations; insufficient voting materials; fights during the delivery of the election certificates with the returns; thousands of irregularly moved voters (a voting crime known in Nicaragua as “ratón loco” – Spanish for crazy mouse); violation of the secrecy of the vote and partiality by the Supreme Electoral Council were some of the practices that have already become a fixture in this Central American nation.

In these municipal elections 153 mayors were chosen, with their deputy mayors, and 6,076 councilmen. Criticisms to the elections have come from all directions. The Partido Liberal Independiente (PLI), the first opposition party against the government (the winner of the day), denounced that the Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional (the ruling party) mobilized groups of teenagers from one municipality to another to vote twice, and also blocked the delivery of electoral materials to several polling stations. Monsignor Jorge Solórzano thinks that the low voter turnout – abstention reached almost 50% – was due to the demotivational effect of the irregularities by the Supreme Electoral Council (CSE).

The United States also joined in the criticism. Their accusations included the “lack of transparency” and the “alarming irregularities” in the elections, even questioning the “partisan way the CSE handled the process before the elections and on Election Day” to “the benefit of the ruling party”.

What happened in these elections was practically the same that took place in November 2011 in the presidential election. The European Union and the Organization of American States (OAS) qualified the day as “shameful and fraudulent” and recommended the removal of the CSE directive and promoting its neutrality and Independence; to purge the voter registry (which has close to 800 thousand dead voters) and issue identity cards; to have polling stations that guarantee the secrecy of voting, improve logistics – put briefly, to transform the whole system.

This is the challenge that Nicaragua faces: minimizing the influence of the Executive Power and favour the people’s will; moving forward and give the country a voting model based on transparency and safety, not partisan interests; guaranteeing an equal participation of all political forces, and safeguarding the most precious asset of Democracy – voting.  Electronic voting, the kind that’s tamper-proof and auditable, may very well be the road to change.

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