Nicaragua’s FSLN Victory: A New High Standard for Democracy

Tortilla con Sal

On November 6th, Daniel Ortega won Nicaragua’s Presidential election with 72.5% of the vote with a turnout of just over 68%. He won against a seriously divided right wing opposition whose parties altogether received the support of 25.3% of voters. The results confirmed repeated opinion polls, conducted during the months prior to the elections, forecasting this spectacular win by Daniel Ortega and his party, the Sandinista Front for National Liberation (FSLN).

The figures mean Daniel Ortega has a much stronger democratic mandate than Western politicians who have so vocally questioned Nicaragua’s democracy. For example, in the US presidential elections of 2012, Barack Obama won with the support of 31.5% (51.1% of a 61.8% turn out)of the population eligible to vote. Last Sunday in Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega won with support from 49.4% of eligible voters (72.5% of a 68.1% turnout). In any comparison of democratic credentials, Daniel Ortega puts all Western government leaders, without exception, to shame.

Prior to Nicaragua’s elections around 25% of voters said they were undecided over which candidate to support. In the end, the majority of that undecided block of voters supported the right wing candidates. This meant that the Constitutional Liberal Party (PLC) regained its place as the leading opposition party with about 15% of the vote for President. In the legislative elections, the FSLN increased the vote it received in 2011 to just over 66% while the opposition, again led by the PLC, won a little over 33%. This means there will be a slight change in favor of the FSLN in Nicaragua’s National Asembly.

In Nicaragua people can vote once they reach the age of 16, so the electorate is overwhelmingly young. That was reflected in the organization of the voting stations, staffed by over 260,000 mainly young volunteers trained by the country’s electoral authority, the Supreme Electoral Council (CSE). On election day the vote was calm and efficient, with few people finding they had to queue to vote and no reported incidents of violence, although reports came in the following day of one violent incident by supporters of the Yatama party on Nicaragua’s northern Caribbean coast.

When voting began on November 6th in Nicaragua’s national elections an unlamented absence was that of interventionist election observation missions from Western NGOs, the European Union and the Organization of American States. Thus, Nicaragua joins the United States, Mexico, Argentina and Uruguay in excluding foreign election observation missions from judging their countries’ sovereign voting processes. However, contrary to Western media reports, Nicaragua’s elections were accompanied by numerous invited foreign visitors including OAS representatives and resident foreign diplomats as well as a distinguished group of impeccably impartial Latin American election experts.

This last group issued a technical report which wholly validated the efficient organization, transparency and citizen participation of Nicaragua’s electoral process. In contrast to conventional Western promoted interventionist electoral observation missions, this group of experts explicitly worked on the basis of non-intervention. Their report explains, “The Mission carried out its work based on a qualitative and respectful analysis of national legal norms, whether these resolutions were administrative, jurisdictional or legislative in nature, based on the principles of international solidarity and non-interference in internal affairs, which are the basic pillars for the functioning of any inter-American organism.” This is very much in the spirit of the work of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC). Accordingly, even US allies among right wing regional governments, like Mexico and Guatemala, have congratulated President Daniel Ortega on his re-election.

Even so, despite its exemplary electoral process, Nicaragua’s democracy is under serious attack from Western governments and media. So far not a single Western government has welcomed what by any standards is an astonishingly successful exercise in electoral democracy in one of the most impoverished countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. All the leading NATO country propaganda outlets, from the New York Times and the Washington Post in the United States to their junior partners like Spain’s El País and the UK Guardian, have collaborated with US government propaganda. They and other corporate and alternative Western media have rubbished Nicaragua’s elections, attempting to impose their neocolonial criteria with complete contempt for the sovereign decision of Nicaragua’s people. Nicaragua faces this aggressive psychological warfare because its political, social and economic success makes the failure of US policy in the region look extremely bad. For example, Haiti, under Western tutelage since the US instigated 2004 coup, has suffered one miserably failed electoral process after another, heavily intervened by the US government and its allies.

With zero credibility outside the NATO country media bubble, those governments and their media now, criticize Nicaragua’s democracy. But the experience of foreign visitors to Nicaragua testifies to the exact opposite. Among many other similar testimonies from foreign visitors who spent Sunday November 6th visiting voting stations in Nicaragua, US solidarity activist Richard Luckemeier noted, “For us from the United States, it’s difficult to avoid a comparison between the electoral process in the United States and the electoral process here in Nicaragua. And I have to say that in the United States in these elections one can say that people are extremely disgusted both with the electoral process and with the candidates. By contrast, going by what we have seen today visiting the voting places, everything seems well organized, people are voting with enthusiasm, one could almost say with joy. As they say, it is a civic fiesta. In times past, the United States was a good example of democracy in the hemisphere, but now it’s more Nicaragua, a small country, much smaller than the United States, that is now the good example of democracy in the hemisphere. Nicaragua, the little giant, you might say.”

Nicaragua’s elections will have an important impact in regional terms for various reasons. For one thing, they should put a full stop to phony analysis of the current misnamed “conservative restoration” in Latin America, which consists of fundamentally illegitimate regimes installed by repressive, corrupt, anti-democratic, right wing elites. The re-election of Daniel Ortega and the election of his partner Rosario Murillo is an emphatic reminder that, in an independent country, a democratic majority will always tend to support equitable socialist policies. But the most revolutionary aspect of Nicaragua’s elections is that they have set a very high standard for gender equality in world politics. By law, fifty percent of all candidates in Nicaragua’s elections have to be women. Maybe, some day, the United States and its allies will eventually catch up.