If you trust the OAS, everything went hunky dory in Nov. 4 municipal elections in Nicaragua in which the Sandinista Front won 134 of 153 mayoral posts, broadening their control of the country.
“Nicaraguans could exercise their right to vote in a peaceful manner,” Lazaro Cardenas Batel, head of the 26-member OAS observer mission, said, according to the EFE news agency.
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland was harsh, saying that the Sandinistas tilted the electoral board before the vote and allowed numerous shenanigans on election day:
“Among the irregularities that were observed on election day were the denial of citizens who wanted to vote, cases of violating the right to a secret vote, and complaints of people who were allowed to vote more than once. These practices have characterized various elections in Nicaragua recently,” Nuland said.
If you want to get a granular account of the fraud that occurred, turn to this posting by a U.S. resident of Nicaragua who accompanied U.S. Embassy observers to an area east of Managua. Here’s an extract of what he saw in the municipality of Teustepe, posted on his site Bloggings by Boz:
I watched for a bit longer and saw more ID cards distributed by electoral police and more young men and women who were still rubbing ink off their thumb from previous voting get back in line to vote again. Over the next 30 minutes, I personally saw at least five more people vote twice at JRV 4, one guy vote three times, and several others vote in spite of having ink on their finger from voting prior to our arrival. Other young men and women appeared to hang around after voting, wiping the ink off their thumb and looking for the signal from the authorities at the voting center that they should get back in line. While the biggest problem was JRV 4, which had a long line that never subsided, I saw at least three cases of young men voting multiple times at other JRVs at that site. Judging by their actions, many of the young men and women standing around that voting center appear to have been there for a lengthy period of time voting.
This wasn't a small abuse by one or two people. What I witnessed was a systemic electoral fraud that involved the voting site coordinator, the electoral police and over a dozen Sandinista activists who were standing around the voting center. The electoral police high fived several of the men as they walked in an out of the JRVs to vote and kept tally sheets on their desks of how many "jovenes" and "adultos" had voted (all of those voting multiple times appeared under 20 years old).
Some of the vote totals are hard to believe. According to a tweet by Carlos Fernando Chamorro, a former Sandinista Front newspaper editor who turned against the party, the Sandinistas claim to have won 95 percent of the vote in the township of Yalaguina, “just like Dear Leader Kim Jong Il.” (Disclosure: Chamorro is a personal friend.)
Clearly, there were problems with the vote. And the OAS can barely be trusted to observe them. When Ortega won re-election in November 2011, hours after the polls closed amid a flawed process, Chilean OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza sent a message: “Democracy and peace advanced in Nicaragua yesterday.”
When other observers complained bitterly about the OAS stamp of approval of the elections, Insulza backtracked, saying it was a misinterpretation by an underling.
Then again, the OAS seems to have a track record of “hear nothing, see nothing.”
Certainly, some Nicaraguans were not content with the municipal elections. Protests, like the one in the AP photo above near Leon, left three people dead after the vote.