The second report on the electoral process by the Observatorio Ciudadano Urnas Abiertas ( Open Polls Citizen Observatory) estimates a national average of 81.5% abstention rate in the general elections held this Sunday, November 7.
According to the organization, abstention could have been between 79% as minimum and 84% as maximum.
“The range of citizen participation is registered between 16% as a minimum, and 21% as a maximum; with a national average of 18.5% of participation”, they detailed.
In a press conference they explained that the data was obtained by the observation of more than 1450 people, who voluntarily made the citizen observation to record the behavior of citizen participation and electoral violence during the voting day.
Ligia Gómez, spokesperson for Urnas Abiertas, recalled that in the 2011 and 2016 elections abstentionism was 45% and 72%, respectively.
During the first hours of voting on November 7 in Nicaragua, 200 acts of violence were registered in the Voting Centers (VC) of the different departments of the country, confirmed the first report of the day by the independent organization Urnas Abiertas.
“Up to 4:30 pm, we have processed incidents of political violence or anomalies coming from all the departments of the country and from 78 percent of the municipalities, that is 119 municipalities”, indicated Olga Valle, researcher at Urnas Abiertas.
Use of state resources
The second report details that the use of state vehicles to transport voters, activists or for other FSLN party activities was reported in at least 203 VCs.
“The municipal mayors’ offices were the public institutions that reported the most use of state vehicles for the transportation of voters and other party activities,” they mention.
Other institutions that participated with vehicles for the transportation of voters are the MEFCCA, Mined, INSS, Inatec, Minsa, Magfor, MTI, firefighters, Police and Army of Nicaragua.
He also denounced that they received reports of 129 Voting Centers where measures against covid-19 were not implemented and of at least 71 centers where propaganda related to the Government party was placed.
In their first evaluation of the “Voting Day Nicaragua 2021” they had indicated that among the acts of violence reported are: the denial of the entrance of prosecutors of the Camino Cristiano Party (CCN), one of the five minority collaborationist parties registered in the ballot together with the ruling Sandinista Front; the intimidation by paramilitary and shock forces related to the FSLN outside the Voting Centers, detention and aggressions to independent journalists; and the presence of armed civilians inside the VCs.
Olga Valle, researcher at Urnas Abiertas, detailed that the beginning of the voting process, which lacks “legitimacy and credibility”, has been “marked by different actions and events of political violence against the citizens in general and by strategies to coerce the vote, especially against state workers”.
She points out that they received reports from State workers who denounce that they are forced to prove that they went to vote for the Sandinista Front, by sending “a photo of the ballot with their name written in the place where the X is marked, so that in this way they can confirm that this ballot corresponds to their vote and not to that of another person”.
In addition, she indicated, they have reports that -as it happened last July during the citizen verification- there was “surveillance in the surrounding area of the Voting Centers”, directed by public workers, policemen in civilian clothes and people recognized as parastatals of the area.
The investigators report a “disproportionate presence of armed forces” in some VC’s, such as those of Matagalpa and Managua, and the restriction of the entrance of non-official media has been reported.
Urnas Abiertas indicates that, in addition to the political violence they register in the VCs, they received “reports” of political violence in communities and neighborhoods in at least ten departments and autonomous regions of the country, among them: Managua, Esteli, Nueva Segovia, Madriz, Granada, Jinotega, Masaya and the two Autonomous Regions of the Caribbean Coast.
They point out that they have documented cases of visits by members of the Consejos del Poder Ciudadano (Councils of Citizen Power, CPC), of the Sandinista Front, in the neighborhoods, “inquiring if the people have already gone to vote and, if they have not gone, they ask them at what time they are going to go, so they can return to verify the vote”.
They also denounce that they have registered cases of intimidation of teachers of the public sector, especially in Waspam, North Caribbean, who are told that “the Voting Centers are under surveillance and if they do not go to vote, they will be victims of reprisals”.
University students coerced to vote
Pedro Fonseca, researcher of Urnas Abiertas, pointed out that during the first part of the day they verified that the process was “completely under the control of the government party; without space for the independent media, under constant police presence and the development of proselytizing activities” in an exclusive report provided to CONFIDENCIAL on the development of the voting process in Managua.
He explains that in Managua, in addition to the coercion they have registered in the votes of state workers of institutions such as the Ministry of Education (Mined) and the Police, they received complaints from university students of the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua (UNAN-Managua), who are forced to go to vote under the threat of “taking away their scholarship”.
He mentioned that in the capital, people denounced visits from CPCs, who went from house to house, with lists in their hands, asking those of legal age if they had already gone to the polls.
Fonseca also denounced that during the first hours of the day, the police presence in the case of the capital was “intense and extensive”.
He recalled that political violence had been registered even before the beginning of the voting day, since up to the morning of this November 7, 21 people were arrested, linked to opposition organizations, especially from the Unidad Nacional Azul y Blanco (Unab), the Alianza Cívica por la Justicia y la Democracia (ACJD) and Unamos.
Irregularities in the voting process
Ligia Gómez, from Urnas Abiertas, also explained that during the first part of the voting day they registered, in 13 departments and the two autonomous regions of the country, a series of anomalies ranging from the use of State resources to the violation of the Electoral Law.
“The electoral silence was disrespected by people dressed in civilian clothes inside the precincts, proselytizing in favor of the FSLN” she pointed out.
Fonseca, in the interview with CONFIDENCIAL, detailed that they have evidence that “in many territories, there were people who arrived at the voting centers wearing t-shirts, flags or articles of the Government party”.
He points out that they also registered cases of Sandinista fanatics “outside the voting centers, in the streets, in the neighborhoods, in the communities, waving flags or playing songs allusive to the Government party”.
The researcher criticized the lack of action in this type of situation, which is clearly in violation of the Electoral Law. He also pointed out the lack of information on the accompanying mission that was brought for the voting process, since, he said, it is not known what kind of technical training they have and where the financing for their arrival came from.
This article was originally published in Spanish on our website. It has been translated into English by our Staff.