Solid Social Consensus Supporting Sandinista Government Two Years Before the 2021 Elections

Jorge Capelán
Nicaragua is overcoming the events of 2018 and is back on track. This is the opinion of 6 out of 10 Nicaraguans according to the M&R SISMO LXI survey released this week.

According to the SISMO LXI study for the last quarter of 2019, which was taken until Monday, January 13, 2020 from a sample of 1,600 of Nicaraguans 16 years of age and older from all over the country and with a margin of error of +/- 2.5%, it is very difficult for the divided and discredited local opposition to win the November 2021 elections. The data from the M&R pollster is credible, among other things because it is the only company that has been applying studies with a consistent methodological basis on various aspects of the national reality for two decades now. The study released this week is the latest in its series Public Opinion Monitoring System (SISMO).

The economy remains the main problem

Contrary to the speeches made by the opposition media as well as persons from the gi¡overnments of the United States and other Western countries, the main problems expressed by the interviewees are of an economic nature (55.8%). Meanwhile, political problems are important for 29.4% and social problems are important for 12.8%. It should be noted that only 0.2% say “repression” by the Sandinista government as a major problem.

On the other hand, the number of respondents who think that their economic situation worsened last year has fallen from 66.1% in April 2019 (when the economic effects of the April 2018 coup were felt most strongly) to 55.4% in the last quarter of 2019. While those who consider that their economic situation has improved rose from 10.4 in April 2019 to 17.5% at the end of the year.

Work (50.9%), peace (50.1%), improving the economy (20.4%), better pay (13.9%) and resolving political conflicts (12.4%) are the main wishes of those surveyed in the country this year. They are followed by a change of government (5.1%), more citizen security (3.4%), democracy (2.3%), “nothing” (2.1%), low prices for the basic basket (1.7%), elections (1.4%), respect for public freedoms (0.9%), improved education (0.7%), and others (2.7%). 67% of respondents expect their purchasing power to improve in 2020 and 70.7% expect the same for employment prospects.

The country has changed for the better

Amidst the havoc caused by the failed “soft coup” that caused losses of 10% of GDP, destroyed some 140,000 jobs and caused one in four businesses to close, it is important to note that the number of Nicaraguans willing to emigrate from the country today is among the lowest levels since M&R conducted this type of measurement.

If in May 2004 69.6% of those surveyed said they were willing to emigrate from Nicaragua, by the end of 2019 only 36.2% were willing to do so, more or less the same proportion of people as in September 2018 and July 2016, that is, the levels of willingness to emigrate that existed just before and just after the coup. In April 2019, when the post-coup economic effects were felt most strongly, 45.2 per cent said they were willing to move to another country.

Despite the failed coup attempt in 2018, and the fact that in 2018 and 2019 workers have had to refrain from demanding salary increases so as not to affect the economic stability of companies, 56.8% of those surveyed consider that the country has made progress compared to 6 years ago while 37.5% consider that it has regressed.

Trust in institutions

For 7 out of 10 (69.3%) the Government works for the benefit of the general population, while in September 2018 those who thought so were 58.6% of those interviewed. 6 out of 10 interviewees (59.7%) approve of the Government’s management. In September 2018, this proportion was just over one in three (36.8%).

Between 7 and 8 of every 10 interviewees considered that the country’s political system respected freedom of religion, business and expression, the right to property, the right to vote and to be elected, the right to express oneself, and the human rights of the population in general. This support includes many who traditionally support the opposition.

55% of those surveyed consider that Commander Daniel Ortega is leading the country in the right direction, while 34.9% consider that he is leading it in the wrong direction, 5.6% say that they do not know in which direction the country is going, and 4.5% did not want to express an opinion.

55.8% consider Commander Daniel Ortega to be a democratic ruler attached to the country’s laws while 36.5% consider him to be authoritarian and acting to establish a dictatorship.

For 6 out of 10 respondents, the Sandinista government unites Nicaraguans while for one in three (34.5%) say it divides them. For 6 out of 10 (58.3%) the government gives them hope while for 4 out of 10 it gives them despair.

For 6 out of 10 interviewed, this is the best government the country has ever had, while for 1 out of 3 it is a dictatorship.

Trust in the Police

Only 7.9% of respondents said they had been a victim of crime in the past 6 months, down from 8.1% in April 2018. As for the perception of citizen security, 42.7% believe it has improved in the last six months against 23% who believe it has worsened, a marked difference from the figures of December 2018 when only 22.3% noted an improvement in that line. However, if we consider the current situation as it was five years ago (2015), 53.8% of those surveyed answered that citizen security has improved compared to 40.7% who consider that there is less security today.

On the other hand, 77.8% of those surveyed consider the National Police to be “very professional” compared to 22% who consider this institution to be “not professional”. The percentage of perceived professionalism of police authorities is higher today than it was in 2015 when 70.2% approved of police work.

At the same time, the percentage of negative view of the professionalism of the police institution is today the lowest in the last 5 years. As for the overall rating of the work of the police, 63% of respondents have a positive image of this institution while 36.2% have a negative image, with a slight tendency to increase since April 2019.

Broad consensus on economic pillars

The responses of the respondents indicate a solid consistency over time on the pillars of the country’s economic model: 71.8% believe that the private sector should be the engine of the country’s economic development while 83.7% believe that the State should promote and facilitate private investment (more or less the same figures as in 2012). Likewise, an overwhelming majority of 93.1% considers that the private sector includes both small and medium enterprises of the family, associative and cooperative sector as well as the large companies grouped in the Cosep.

No to coup d’état

Public opinion disqualifies coup d’état as a strategy: 9 out of 10 respondents reject a coup d’état in all its forms. 8 out of 10 reject strikes. 82.5% consider that it is the people with their vote who should decide who will govern. 7 out of 10 people reject foreign interference. 7 out of 10 reject the April-July 2018 coup (in December 2018, 35.7% supported it).

According to 8 out of 10 respondents, the opposition should focus on dialogue and negotiation with the government, and only 13.7% think that it should exert more pressure and mobilization on the government.

According to those interviewed, the three priority issues for any negotiation between the Government and the opposition should be employment, wages and prices of the basic basket of goods. Issues such as political problems, citizen security, “strengthening citizen freedoms” and even the much talked about electoral reforms come last.

For 68.5% of those interviewed, the role of the opposition has been bad and disastrous. This shows an increase even with the month of April 2018, before the “soft blow” against the Sandinista government began, and is even greater than the beginning of that year, when the rejection of the opposition was 65.9%.

For 85.8% of those polled, Nicaragua must return to the course it was on before April 18, 2018. According to 60.4%, Nicaragua is overcoming the events of 2018 and has returned to the right path. Only 28.4% disagree with that statement.

Unemployment and sewage, important issues

With respect to the dissatisfaction of the population, 65.4% of the respondents criticized the lack of jobs. They are followed by 39.5% who criticized the availability of sewerage. On the other hand, the highest level of satisfaction (76.3%) was with the drinking water service, followed by the state of the roads, interurban transport and health. Among public services, satisfaction is lowest in the sewerage sector, at 51%. Satisfaction is also very low (understandably, because of the situation in the country) in the area of job opportunities, with 24.5%.

Strong Sandinista majority

In terms of political party sympathies, the hard vote for the FSLN is 44% of those surveyed, while the hard vote for the opposition is more than 10 times lower, at 3.5%. The rest of the respondents (52.5%) declared themselves to be independent, but of these 8% said that they tend to vote for the FSLN while 20.4% said that they tend to vote for the opposition. 24.1% of those polled said they did not sympathize with any party.

In total, the FSLN reaches a level of support of 52% of those polled while the opposition would reach a level of support of 23.9%. In an electoral contest, this would translate into even higher figures in favor of the ruling party since abstentions would not be counted. According to another M&R study, (Nicaragua Towards 2021, 1st Pre-Electoral Survey) from last September, this abstention could reach 30% and would hardly fall below 14% of the historic 1990 elections.

52% of those polled (more than half of the voters) said they would vote for the FSLN and that same percentage said they would never vote for the opposition. On the other hand, 23.9% assured that they would vote for the opposition and would never vote for the FSLN. About six out of ten voters plan to vote against the opposition while about a third of voters are inclined to vote against the FSLN. In other words, about 60% of the voters feel close to the FSLN while a little more than a third (36.6%) feel close to the opposition. The group of those indifferent to both options is small: only 4.7%.

Sandinismo’s strength, right-wing fragility

The data from the M&R survey is one more sign that signals the end of the coup d’état conditions that started in April 2018 (and which ended with the defeat of the coup and the oligarchy that supported it), and indicate the beginning of the 2021 elections that will once again decide the future of the country. By now the people have assimilated what happened between April and July 2018 and have drawn their own conclusions.

This situation is surrounded by a series of uncertainties resulting from the power struggle between the political elite of Republicans and Democrats in the United States. Moreover, it will be influenced by the regional correlation of forces between our peoples in struggle and imperialism.

Last week, shortly before the publication of the M&R poll, the news spread of the failure of the project of unity among the groups that make up the coup opposition in the country, captive to internal strife and personal interests. In any case, the most likely thing is that imperialism will manage to unite them in the face of the 2021 elections, either with a government platform in search of winning them, or with a destabilization platform in search of discrediting them and forcing a non-democratic way out.

However, something the Nicaraguan right is already damaged and it will be very difficult for their external sponsors to repair it, much less an internal leadership that is already well worn out and discredited.

In Nicaragua, between 30 and 40% of the population is ideologically right-wing. These are political identifications that are forged and passed on over generations. But that fraction of the population is going through a serious crisis, as the survey data show. Those who openly support and claim to support efforst at a coup d’état and violence are few and far between. So on the one hand, the current leadership of the right is totally discredited while on the other, this Sandinista government has guaranteed elements of social coexistence impossible to deny, even for these right wing sectors.

By contrast, Sandinismo looks very solid, but it cannot take victory for granted. It will need to strengthen and nurture its unity, and be very alert to situations that could generate discontent among the people. For example, as in the issue of sewerage, where despite the discontent expressed in the survey, a record number of water and sanitation projects are scheduled for the coming year. The salaried sectors of the country have had to abstain from salary increases so as not to affect businesses, mostly owned by the same people who have become empowered as economic subjects under this government. For this reason it is especially important to strengthen the political work and the efficiency and justice of all the government programs aimed at defending the rights of the people themselves.

Also in these two years prior to the 2021 elections, disinformation and false news campaigns will certainly increase, such as those that are daily promoted by alarmist reports on the state of the economy. Another element to take into account and once not contemplated in the M&R survey are those thousands of teenagers who will turn 16 before November 2021 and who with their votes can decide the future of the country.

Translation by Tortilla Con Sal