1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Nicaragua: Ortega's rivals decry local vote clampdown

November 7, 2022

Nicaraguans voted in municipal elections on Sunday, where President Daniel Ortega's party seeks to cement its grip on power. Opposition representatives have decried the vote as a farce.

A polling station workers holds up a ballot while talking to a woman in Nicaragua
Daniel Ortega's Sandinista party already controls all three branches of the federal governmentImage: AP Photo/picture alliance

Nicaraguans voted on Sunday in municipal elections, after a campaign that did not include rallies or demonstrations. Polls closed in the evening, but it was not clear when the results will be declared.

More than 3.7 million Nicaraguans were eligible to vote in elections that would elect mayors, deputies, and other local officials. The Supreme Electoral Authority said the vote had passed off quietly.

President Daniel Ortega's Sandinista National Liberation Front party hopes to gain near-total control of local government through these elections. It already controls all three branches of the federal government and 141 of Nicaragua's 153 municipalities.

Civic groups, opposition criticize elections

The opposition called the local elections a farce, and criticized the low turnout. The spokesman of the Unidad Nacional Azul y Blanco alliance, Hector Mairena said this confirmed the lack of faith people had in the elections.

The civic group Urnas Abiertas, or Open Ballot Boxes, said 17 people had been arrested prior to elections or during the vote itself. It said the elections were controlled by Ortega's party, and government employees were "pressured" to vote.

The group also said that in 63% of polling places they visited, Sandinista party operators were keeping tabs on who had voted. There were Sandinista posters or people wearing Sandinista party promotional gear in 41% of the polling places, the group found. 

Opposition groups have pointed out the disappearance of more than 755,000 names from voter rolls without explanation.

The UN Human Rights Commissariat has also called upon the Nicaraguan government to stop the arbitrary arrests. "We call on the government to guarantee the political and civic rights of the Nicaraguan people and stop the repression," said the UN body on Twitter.

The ruling party has denied interfering with the elections. Foreign minister Denis Moncada said the elections "help to strengthen the people's revolutionary democracy."

Crackdown on dissent

Urnas Abiertas group had documented more than 700 instances of political violence, including targeted harassment and threats towards opposition figures this year.

"These elections are part of a consolidation of the totalitarian regime of Daniel Ortega," said Ligia Gomez, an election observer for the group.

Ortega's party has cracked down on dissent and opposition in the past two years. In July, five opposition mayors belonging to other disbanded parties were ousted, and replaced with allies of the ruling party.

About 2,000 NGOs, more than 50 media outlets, and some 100 civil society organizations have been closed as part of the crackdown.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights expressed concern last week that "the minimum conditions necessary'' to hold free and fair elections do not exist in Nicaragua. 

An accountant from Managua who did not wish to be named told AP news agency that there was distrust among the population regarding elections. "People don't even talk about the elections," he said.

tg/dj  (AP, EPD)