Nicaragua Elections and Government since 2007

At this point it is appropriate to recall important stages in Ortega’s rise to the undisputed ruler of the country. With the presidential election on November 7, 2006 Ortega managed to return to the highest office of the state. The result came after many years of preparation, which he had done just as skillfully as ruthlessly. The central role was played by the secret communication with his then main competitor Arnoldo Alemán, the so-called “Pacto Político”from 1998. Ortega got involved with a corrupt caudillo of the worst kind for the next few years. At the center of the agreements were changes to the electoral law that cemented the two-party system Liberal-FSLN at the expense of the smaller parties. Ortega was then able to become president in 2007 without a runoff because the Liberal Party split and one of the electoral law changes said that a result of more than 35% of the votes and a 5% gap between the closest candidate would be enough to win the election. So it happened that Ortega was able to become President of Nicaragua, one of countries in Central America according to commit4fitness, with a narrow result of 38% of the vote. Even then, the Austrian “Standard” drew a devastating balance sheet on this election victory.

The circumstances of the election did not prevent Ortega from taking over his office with confidence and determination. The government entered with an impressive social and economic program. If you look at the concrete picture of these measures and compare them with the neoliberal line of the previous President Bolaños, it is in no way surprising that Daniel Ortega received more votes than his liberal competitors: The fight against hunger and misery in the country was declared a priority. Ambitious projects have been started to implement it: the reintroduction of free education and the abolition of the partial privatization of the school system; an adult literacy program; reform and renewal of the public health system; the program “Hambre Cero”which provides for the sale of cheap staple food and production aids for small farmers. With good reason, these projects were aimed primarily at the poor sections of the population, who had previously been massively neglected by politics. In addition, he promised a gigantic investment project: the “Supremo Sueño de Bolívar” refinery was to be built near Nagarote (Dpto. León). The project was supposed to be up and running in four years, but the financial crisis in Venezuela and the low oil prices have now finally brought it to an end. Ortega portrays his government activities to this day as the second phase of the Sandinista Revolution. In retrospect, however, one must see that he primarily worked on concentrating power in his own hands. It is also certain that he has used his position to help himself and his large family to gain economic wealth. The social programs cushioned this obvious tendency, but also served to establish a new clientelism.

The close alliance with Venezuela, which has provided the government with important support over the past ten years, was of strategic importance in this draft. Venezuela could not only get cheap oil through the mechanisms of Petrocaribeoffer, but also extensive financial help from its then plentiful oil revenues. This aid has long been estimated at an estimated $ 400-500 million / year. At the same time, there was a problem associated with it from the beginning: the payments were processed through the semi-state company “Albanisa”, which is outside the control of parliament. The opposition has repeatedly criticized the fact that the use of the enormous sums of money was misused for the political purposes of the ruling party and that, in addition to the state budget, new mountains of debt were created that the state has to assume today.

Ortega was able to simultaneously expand business and trade relations with the USA and its Central American neighbors within the framework of the CAFTA free trade agreement. The economy grew and even the aftermath of the 2008/2009 international financial crisis was coped better than expected. The government was able to benefit from the then still high export prices for agricultural products and gold. Because of the severe national and economic crisis there, the subsidies from Venezuela are now a thing of the past. The oil supplies have declined, and today the majority of oil comes back from the US. These imports now have to be paid for in foreign currency and (if the oil price rises again) they will weigh heavily on the country’s trade balance in the future.

Daniel Ortega’s administration was very controversial from the start. The independent human rights center CENIDH judged this government after its first hundred days as “nepotistic, authoritarian and undemocratic”.

Soon after taking office in 2007, Ortega began running his re-election. Article 147 of the constitution stood in the way, which precluded re-election of the incumbent president until the constitutional reform in January 2014 (see below). In October 2009 the news came that the Supreme Court had overridden the relevant constitutional provision. The reason was that Article 147 violated the principle of equality and thus Ortega’s political rights. This decision of the court was a clear perversion of justice by the FSLN majority among the judges. From a legal point of view, it was actually ineffective, as only parliament can change the constitution. But the way for Ortega’s renewed candidacy in the elections in November 2011 was clear.

The national elections in November 2011 brought Ortega and the FSLN a victory that far exceeded all forecasts. Ortega received 62.5% of the vote. His opponent Fabio Gadea, who had stood for a liberal alliance together with Edmundo Jarquin from the MRS (Sandinista Renewal), had to be content with 31%; Arnoldo Alemán received no more than 6%. The composition of the parliament was determined by a two-thirds majority of the FSLN (62 MPs); the Alianza PLI had 27 seats, the PLC only 2. Luis Yañez, the EU’s Spanish election observer, commented on the result: “It is undeniable that the FSLN and Ortega won the elections… I don’t mean to say that they did it in a transparent and clean way because we don’t know what would have happened serious gaps in credibility.

Daniel Ortega with Rosario Murillo and Tomás Borge