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Politics and government of
Nicaragua held a general election on November 5, 2006. The country's voters went to the polls to elect a new President of the Republic and 90 members of the National Assembly, all of whom will serve five-year terms. Daniel Ortega (FSLN) won the race with 37.99% of the vote, Eduardo Montealegre (ALN) trailing with 28.30%, José Rizo (PLC) with 27.1%, Edmundo Jarquín (MRS) with 6.29%, and Edén Pastora (AC) with just 0.29%.
Right-wing political parties have dominated Nicaraguan politics since independence in 1838. From the times of the antagonical Democratic and Legitimist parties, the Liberals and Conservatives have succeeded each other in the government with the exception of the Sandinista rule from 1979 to 1990.
This two-party system, with two dominant political parties, has survived until our days with the difference that the two rival forces today are the FSLN and the self-appointed Democratic Forces (anti-Sandinistas).
In the last 16 years, the National Opposition Union (UNO) in 1990, the Liberal Alliance (AL) in 1996 and the Constitutionalist Liberal Party (PLC) in 2001 have all defeated the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) candidate Daniel Ortega in three consecutive presidential elections.
The current electoral scene could be the end of the bipartite scheme as the anti-Sandinista forces split into two major political alliances: the Nicaraguan Liberal Alliance (ALN) and the Constitutionalist Liberal Party (PLC). The Sandinista forces are also running divided, as the dissident Sandinista Renovation Movement (MRS) is pulling a significant amount of the moderated Sandinista and independent votes.
The required percentages to win the Presidential Election was reduced from 45 to 40 percent. The electoral law states that a participating candidate must obtain a relative majority of at least 40 percent of the vote to win a presidential election. However, a candidate may win by obtaining at least 35 percent of the vote, with at least a five percent margin over the second place finisher. The law also established a second-round runoff election if none of the candidates won in the first round.
In addition, a party could also lose its legal status if it obtains less than 4 percent of the votes in the general elections.
President: Edén Pastora
Edén Pastora, the former Sandinista Deputy Defense Minister (1979–1981), was the presidential candidate for the Nicaraguan Democratic Action Party (PAD) in 1996. The Supreme Electoral Council (CSE) barred him from running for the presidency on the grounds that he had Costa Rican nationality. In the 2004 municipal elections, Pastora was running for mayor of Managua on the Independent Liberal Party's ticket. Pastora got less than 5% of the votes.
Vice-President: Mercedes Tenorio
President: José Rizo
José Rizo, co-founder of the PLC, and his running mate José Antonio Alvarado, who were also citizens of Chile and the United States, respectively, were prohibited from participating in the 1996 elections by the Supreme Electoral Council (CSE). In 1997, under the government of Arnoldo Alemán, Rizo was appointed president of the Nicaraguan Institute for Municipal Development (INIFOM). After the reforms to the Electoral Law in year 2000, part of the pact between the PLC and the FSLN, Rizo was able to contest the 2001 elections where he was elected vice-president, running on the PLC ticket.
Vice-President: José Antonio Alvarado
José Antonio Alvarado, one of the founders of the PLC, and later expelled from it for his dissidence to Alemán, held various ministerial portfolios during both the Alemán and Bolaños administration. Like his running mate, the CSE excluded him from participating in the 2001 elections as the vice-presidential candidate of the Conservative Party. In late August 2005, Eduardo Montealegre, the ALN's presidential candidate, invited Alvarado to join him as his vice-president. Alvarado was elected the presidential candidate of the Alliance for the Republic (APRE) in the primaries held in May 2006 with about 82% of the votes. Shortly after APRE joined the ALN alliance and Alvarado went back to the PLC.
President: Eduardo Montealegre
Eduardo Montealegre, a former banker and economist, is the youngest and wealthiest of the five candidates. Like Alvarado, he held various ministerial portfolios during both the Alemán and Bolaños administration, including Foreign Minister with Alemán and Treasury Minister under Bolaños government. After his expulsion from the PLC he founded the ALN together with other dissidents. Montealgre's adversaries have criticized him for his involvement in the CENI bond operation – now a substantial part of the domestic debt – after several banks got into financial problems due to fraudulent practices over the course of 1999-2001.
Vice-President: Fabricio Cajina
President: Daniel Ortega
Daniel Ortega, coordinator of the Junta of National Reconstruction (1979–1985), ascended to the presidency after the 1984 elections. Ortega, general secretary of the Sandinista National Liberation Front, was President of Nicaragua from 1985 to 1990 and presidential candidate of the FSLN in 1990, 1996, 2001 and 2006. Prominent Sandinista leaders have left the party or have been expelled for dissenting to Ortega's power. Despite all, Ortega is pulling in first place in the polls.
Vice-President: Jaime Morales Carazo
Jaime Morales Carazo, the civilian chief of the Contras in the 1980s and Alemán's right-hand man for many years, was one of the founders of the PLC and liberal legislator in the National Assembly until 2006. Morales Carazo began to distance himself politically from Alemán and the PLC once Bolaños came to office and launched his “war on corruption.”
President: Edmundo Jarquín
Edmundo Jarquín was the MRS vice-presidential candidate. He took Herty Lewites place when he died of a heart attack on 3 July 2006. Jarquín founded in 1974, together with Pedro Joaquín Chamorro, editor of newspaper La Prensa, the Democratic Liberation Union (UDEL) in the struggle against the Somoza regime. Jarquín was head of the Ministry of Foreign Cooperation between 1981–84 and ambassador to Mexico (1984–88) and to Spain (1988–1990). In the 1990 elections he gained a seat in the National Assembly. Jarquín worked as an Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) official from 1992 to 2005 when he resigned and joined the MRS electoral alliance.
Vice-President: Carlos Mejía Godoy
Carlos Mejía Godoy is an internationally known and popular Nicaraguan singer-songwriter who stepped in as the vice-presidential candidate after Lewites died. Mejía Godoy is the father of Camilo Mejía, one of the most famous conscientious objectors to the US war in Iraq.
The Alternative for Change (Spanish: Alternativa por el Cambio - AC) was part of the MRS Alliance for a few months, but decided to go alone to the elections with presidential candidate Edén Pastora. Alternative for Change was founded by dissidents from the Nicaraguan Party of the Christian Path (CCN) and a few stray Sandinistas, which first went under the name Christian Alternative led by former Sandinista legislator Orlando Tardencilla.
The Constitutionalist Liberal Party (Spanish: Partido Liberal Constitucionalista - PLC) is in alliance with the Worker's Permanent Congress (CPT), a civil organisation formed around several smaller parties, labor unions and political movements.
The Nicaraguan Liberal Alliance (Spanish: Alianza Liberal Nicaragüense - ALN) is formed by dissidents of the Constitutionalist Liberal Party and the Conservative Party (PC), Alliance for the Republic (APRE), Independent Liberal Party (PLI), Nicaraguan Resistance Party (PRN) and the Nicaraguan Party of the Christian Path (CCN).
After the break-up of the FSLN-Convergence alliance in 2005, the Sandinista National Liberation Front (Spanish: Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional - FSLN) formed the United Nicaragua Triumphs alliance. The allied political forces of the FSLN are; Yapti Tasba Masraka Nanih Aslatakanka (YATAMA), the indigenous party from Nicaragua's Atlantic Coast, Christian Democratic Union (UDC), Christian Unity Movement (MUC), Popular Conservative Alliance (APC) and a few smaller organisations of dissidents from the Liberal and Conservative Party and a fraction of members from the Nicaraguan Resistance Party, including members of the PLN, Somoza's Liberal Party.
The Sandinista Renovation Movement (Spanish: Movimiento de Renovación Sandinista - MRS), also known as the Herty 2006 Alliance in allusion to Herty Lewites, the alliance original presidential candidate, runs in this election together with the Social Christian Party (PSC), Nicaraguan Socialist Party (PSN), Ecologist Green Party of Nicaragua (PVEN), Party for Citizen Action (PAC), the Movement for the Rescue of the Sandinismo and the Change-Reflection-Ethic-Action Movement (CREA). Various social groups are also part of the alliance, the most organized and belligerent of which is the Autonomous Women’s Movement.
The Sandinista Assembly -FSLN's highest decision-making body- was held on 26 February in Managua. Lewites had announced that he planned a march to the site of the event with his followers in support of his candidacy. Some 200 meters from the gates of the “Olofito” convention center where the Sandinista Assembly was meeting, they were stopped by a larger pro-Ortega demonstration. For several minutes both bands literally went at each other with fists, stones and even clubs. The police had to intervene, placing themselves between the rival bands. In the Assembly, the official leadership responded by expelling Lewites and his campaign chief Víctor Hugo Tinoco from the party.
A few days later, on 6 March, an extraordinary FSLN congress was held in Matagalpa. The outcome of this congress was the annulment of primary elections and the proclaim of Daniel Ortega as the presidential candidate, successfully blocking Herty Lewites presidential aspirations. The Sandinista grass roots would no longer be consulted on their choice for presidential candidate through primary elections. As Ortega himself pointed out; "The truth is that primary elections cause a lot of problems due to the enormous erosion and friction they cause among Sandinistas."
Pro-Ortega legislators are running for reelection together with cadres from the party structures and a few political figures from what is left of the FSLN's Convergence alliance, such as Social Christian Agustín Jarquín, Conservative Miriam Argüello and Liberal Julia Mena, all former opponents of Ortega.
Lewites went on to form the Movement for the Rescue of the Sandinismo who joined the MRS Alliance with Herty Lewites as the presidential candidate for the Nicaraguan general election, 2006. The MRS chose their legislative candidates based on surveys and bilateral contacts with their allies in the MRS Alliance.
In the light of PLC’s victory in the atlantic coast elections on March 2006, the PLC announced it would not hold primary elections to select its presidential candidate, arguing lack of finances. Instead the 750 party delegates from all over the country would do the selecting at the PLC National Convention on 2 April. On 22 March, Alemán suddenly announces a form of primary election with 32 simultaneous conventions in the country’s 16 departments on 31 March, and the winner would be ratified two days later during the National Convention.
PLC leaders also invited all dissident Liberals outside the PLC to participate in these primaries, voting for the candidate they consider best able to defeat the FSLN, then rejoining the fold come what may. José Rizo won the PLC primary elections.
The ALN held also primary elections, but gave preference to unelected candidates, among them some of their allies in APRE, PC and the PRN. Montealegre attempted also -up to the last minute- to bring some pro-Alemán leaders over to his side. He was only successful with Pedro Joaquín Chamorro Barrios, son of Violeta Barrios de Chamorro and former PLC candidate for Mayor of Managua.
The Atlantic Coast elections of March 2006, was an excellent opportunity for the parties and candidates competing in the general election to show their strength. The results gave the PLC a significant victory with 40 seats out of 90 in the Regional Councils. The FSLN and its ally YATAMA got 45 seats between them both and the ALN got the remaining five. The MRS Alliance didn't pull enough votes to win a seat in the Regional Council.
One of the most important issues of the 2006 elections is the economy. The high external debt and internal debt have inhibited growth. Around 75% of the population lives on less than USD 2 a day, unemployment and underemployment are close to 50%, and income inequality is very pronounced. However, there have been some recent improvements. Real economic growth declined from 7.4% in 1999 to 1% in 2002, then turned around to grow back to 2.3% in 2003, and about 4% in 2004.
Another important issue is the pact established by the PLC and the FSLN in 2000 in order to maintain control over key institutions such as the Supreme Court (CSJ) and the Supreme Electoral Council (CSE), causing a profound institutional crisis in the Nicaraguan society. Both the two major anti-pact forces (ALN and MRS), and more recently, the PLC candidate, Rizo, made public their intentions to dismantle the pact. Truth is that a "qualified majority" of 2/3 in the National Assembly is needed to revert the 2000 reforms and this is not likely to happen according to the latest polls.
In late August, the Sandinista Renovation Movement (MRS) candidate Edmundo Jarquín stated that he supported therapeutic abortion when the life of the mother is at risk. Abortion under these circumstances had been legal in Nicaragua since 1891. Abortion other than therapeutic is punishable by imprisonment from one to three years.
The religious sector condemned Jarquín's statement, prompting the other four of the five presidential candidates to declare themselves against abortion. The FSLN, which has an important relationship with former Managua Archbishop Miguel Obando, stated in general that they opposed abortion and were "pro-life". This was a reversal of traditional Sandinista policy.
The Catholic Church organised a march on the National Assembly on 6 October to demand that therapeutic abortion be criminalized in the penal code. A march took place a few days later, organized by the Autonomous Women's Movement, a pro-choice organization that is part of the MRS Alliance.
On 15 October, President Bolaños sent to the National Assembly a draft on a proposed reform of the penal code in order to penalize therapeutic abortion. The National Assembly passed the law banning therapeutic abortions on 26 October 2006. It is widely expected that the president will sign it. A section of the law raising prison sentences for women undergoing abortions or doctors performing them from up to six years to up to 30 years was not passed.
U.S. officials have openly opposed Ortega's and Rizo's candidacies and supported Montealegre and Sandinista dissident Edmundo Jarquín. U.S. Rep. Dan Burton, U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez and Ambassador Paul Trivelli have all stated that an Ortega victory could scare off foreign investors and threaten Nicaragua's relations with the United States.
According to the Nicaraguan Electoral Law, the parties are forced to report most donations, but only those received from the date of the official opening of the campaign (19 August) to the day of the elections (5 November). Minor individual donations do not need to be disclosed. The parties will be refunded after the elections in proportion to the amount of votes each of them obtain.
A pre-campaign study carried out by the independent Ethic and Transparency Civic Group between 1 July and 15 August, showed that the FSLN was the party that spent more money during that period; C$ 7,858,120. ALN came in second with C$ 3,153,571 followed by the PLC with C$ 2,622,635. The MRS spent C$ 824,718 and the AC had the smallest budget with C$ 535,624.
According to the ALN official, Eliseo Núñez, the party estimates its budget for the whole campaign in USD 6 to 8 millions. José Rizo's budget is also estimated in about USD 6 million. Edén Pastora and his AC will have an austere campaign with a USD 500,000 budget.
The United States is investing between USD 10 and 13 million in the Nicaraguan elections providing support to the Supreme Electoral Council (CSE), the Organisation of American States (OAS) election observer mission and in the training of ALN and MRS election officials.
On the other hand, the Sandinista Mayor of Managua, Dionisio Marenco, negotiated an agreement with the Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA that allows Venezuelan oil to be imported directly to Nicaragua with preferential payment conditions. The first shipment of a total of 10 million barrels of oil (equivalent to the total annual demand in Nicaragua) arrived to the country on October 2005. Nicaragua is in the middle of an energy crisis with increasing oil prices and a strict energy rationalization policy that leaves hundreds of thousands of Nicaraguan without power supply for several hours a day.
Early in September, CNN organized a television encounter between the presidential candidates, inviting all five to participate. Daniel Ortega refused to take part leaving the "debate" to the remaining four; Eduardo Montealegre, José Rizo, Edmundo Jarquín and Edén Pastora.
Borge & Asociados - Polls Conducted October 15–222, October 5–121, September 13, and August 5, 2006
|Party||Candidate||October 20062||October 20061||September 2006||August 2006|
M & R Consultores - Polls Conducted October 19–22, September 21 and August 10, 2006
|Party||Candidate||October 2006||September 2006||August 2006|
UCA - Sponsored by END, Canal 10, CNC - Poll Conducted October, 2006
|N/A||Don't know/Didn't answer||11.18%|
This poll sample size is 15,330. The margin of error is 0.8%. 
CID-Gallup - Poll Conducted October, 2006 and August 16 to 19, 2006
|Party||Candidate||October 2006||August 2006|
|N/A||Don't know/Didn't answer||17.6%||19%|
The elections of 90 representatives to the National Assembly will also be held on November 5. According to the September poll by M & R Consultores no party will gain enough seats to form a majority.
According to M & R, the FSLN polls first on 7 of the country's 17 departments, mostly on northern and western Nicaragua. ALN-PC is number one on 6 departments in southern and eastern Nicaragua, including the Southern Autonomous Region (R.A.A.S.). The MRS party leads the polls on 3 departments including the nation's capital, Managua, and the PLC polls first in the department of Boaco.
UCA - Sponsored by END, Canal 10, CNC - October, 2006
|Don't know/Didn't answer||9.37%||N/A|
According to this poll, the FSLN wins in nine departments, four of them with an absolute majority (over 50% of the intended votes). The ALN-PC comes in second place winning in four departments, the PLC third with three departments and in last place, the MRS being number one only in one department (Carazo).
|Candidates - Parties||Votes||%|
|José Daniel Ortega Saavedra - Sandinista National Liberation Front||854,316||38.07|
|Eduardo Montealegre - Nicaraguan Liberal Alliance||650,879||29.00|
|José Rizo Castellón - Constitutionalist Liberal Party||588,304||26.51|
|Edmundo Jarquín Calderón - Sandinista Renovation Movement||144,596||6.44|
|Edén Atanacio Pastora Gómez - Alternative for Change||6,120||0.27|
|The source is Consejo Supremo Electoral|
National Deputies (91.6% counted ):
|Sandinista National Liberation Front (Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional)||840,851||37,59||38|
|Nicaraguan Liberal Alliance (Alianza Liberal Nicaragüense )||597,709||26,72||23|
|Constitutionalist Liberal Party (Partido Liberal Constitucionalista)||592,118||26.47||25|
|Sandinista Renovation Movement (Movimiento de Renovación Sandinista)||194,416||8.69||5|
|Alternative for Change (Alternativa por el Cambio)||12,053||0.54||-|
|Total (turnout %)||100.0||92|
|Source: Elecciones 2006 , 91.6 % counted (?). The seats are from IFES|
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