Opposition cancelled

Supreme Electoral Council of Nicaragua cancels the legal status of the opposition party.

Since 2018, Nicaragua has gone through a period of political instability and social upheaval initiated by protests against President Daniel Ortega, who responded with an iron fist, leading to the death of at least 326 protestors.

Nicaragua is heading to the polls next November in what will be the first presidential and legislative election after the 2018 unrest. In early May 2021, the congress led by Ortega’s Sandinista party chose new members of the Supreme Electoral Council which established a short deadline to register political alliances for the November elections. Furthermore, the Congress passed a number of electoral reforms that limit the presentation of alternative candidates to Ortega, who is seeking his fourth term in office.

On 12 May 2021, the newly elected Supreme Electoral Council banned the registration of the Party for the Democratic Restoration (PRD), which was formed by Sandinista dissidents which posed the biggest threat to Ortega’s dominance. The strength of the PRD evidences the fragmentation of the opposition in Nicaragua, which continues to be significantly fragmented between anti-Ortega leftists, evangelical groups and labour and student unions.

A former war correspondent and political advisor in Nicaragua explained, “The opposition is divided, but not atomised like in Venezuela or Mexico. They see both countries as a warning and they know perfectly well that they must bring together not only people with high credibility but also a reconstruction plan for the country – one of the poorest in the region. People are hopeful that the Alianza Ciudadanos por la Libertad has enough support and capacity to govern. The PRD could divide more if it decides not to join the Alliance, and inadvertently it would help secure Ortega’s victory.”

“The opposition is divided, but not atomised like in Venezuela or Mexico.”

Former war correspondent and political advisor, Nicaragua

Foreign powers are expected to exert pressure on Ortega to guarantee a clean vote. However, international stakeholders are mainly expected to offer support to promote dialogue between the government and the opposition. A political analyst in Nicaragua explained, “As the Nicaraguan election approaches and given the weakness of Venezuela and Cuba, Biden will pressure Ortega to allow not only the electoral participation of new forces but also to accept the results. These factors will force the electoral system to open and not only ensure elections with international observers from the UN, the OAS, the European Parliament etc., but also a solution and a pact that will support an orderly transition or at least, not bloody.”

The political advisor agreed, “The OAS, but especially the UN, must ensure that the electoral process is respected. The US knows that an internal crisis plus undocumented migratory flows from the Northern Triangle (El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras) could generate a new refugee stampede. Mexico is also concerned about this situation due to its own pressure, first from Trump and today from Biden.”

“The OAS, but especially the UN, must ensure that the electoral process is respected.”

Former war correspondent and political advisor, Nicaragua

The cost of ignoring the requests of international powers could come at a high price for President Ortega as Nicaragua could face international sanctions that would further hinder an incipient economic recovery following the COVID-19 crisis. In this context a potential dissenting voice in the international arena like the Grupo de Puebla is yet to make an official statement over its position in the forthcoming election.

“If the Puebla Group does not make a firm declaration against Ortega over his re-election plans at all costs, it will be a complicity that is difficult to balance in credibility.”

Political analyst, Nicaragua

The political analyst postulates, “The Puebla Group’s support for Ortega has yet to be verified although it is known that money is flowing from groups close to MORENA in Mexico and Maduro in Venezuela. However, I doubt the Puebla Group will unite around Daniel Ortega himself. I do not see personalities like Insulza from Chile, Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas and Beatriz Paredes from Mexico, José Mujica himself from Uruguay or the former head of the Spanish government, Rodriguez Zapatero, putting their hands in the fire for Ortega and his wife. Also, if the Puebla Group does not make a firm declaration against Ortega over his re-election plans at all costs, it will be a complicity that is difficult to balance in credibility.”

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