Nicaraguan general election, 1984

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A general election was held in Nicaragua on November 4, 1984, to elect a president and parliament. Approximately 1.2 million Nicaraguans voted,[1] representing a 75% turnout, with 94% of eligible voters registered.[2] Impartial observers from international groupings such as the European Economic Community, religious groups sent to monitor the election, and observers from democratic nations such as Canada and the Republic of Ireland concluded that the elections were completely free and fair,[3][4] although some have argued that only the general election of 1990 marked Nicaragua’s transition to democracy.[5]

According to Martin Kriele, the 1984 election was for posts subordinate to the Sandinista Directorate, a body “no more subject to approval by vote than the Central Committee of the Communist Party is in countries of the East Bloc,” according to a detailed study. Some also thought the election was less than fair, with Kriele stating that by evading the secret ballot, “the authorities had the opportunity to check on how individuals had voted.” Also, “the finally announced results of the election were determined through administrative manipulation – that is, they were rigged.”[6]

The election date, November 4 was selected so that Nicaragua would have a legitimate, elected government in place before the anticipated reelection of Ronald Reagan in the United States on November 6. "The Sandinistas hoped that a competitive election with heavy turnout would deter a U.S. military intervention and reassure the FSLN’s defenders. So the Sandinistas’ decision to hold elections in 1984 was largely of foreign inspiration”.[7]

Between 1982 and 1984 the FSLN negotiated with the opposition on the proposed Political Parties Law and Electoral Law, and ultimately these were modified "in response to several of the opposition's most significant demands."[8] Similarly, multiple extensions of the deadline for candidate registration were granted whilst talks with the Coordinadora continued.[9]

Coordinadora Democrática participation[edit]

It has been argued that "probably a key factor in preventing the 1984 elections from establishing liberal democratic rule was the United States' policy toward Nicaragua."[10] The Reagan administration was divided over whether the rightwing coalition Coordinadora Democrática Nicaragüense participate in the elections or not, which "only complicated the efforts of the Coordinadora to develop a coherent electoral strategy."[10] Ultimately the US administration public and private support for non-participation allowed those members of the Coordinadora who favoured a boycott to gain the upper hand.[10]

A coalition of right-wing parties including the Social Christians, Social Democrats, and the Constitutional Liberal Party, calling itself the ‘Democratic Coordinating Committee’ (Coordinadora), decided to abstain from the elections on the grounds that the opposition parties had been given insufficient ‘guarantees,’ and not enough time to prepare for the elections. The Coordinadora’s abstentionism was publicly supported by the US government, which hoped to challenge the legitimacy of the November elections by alleging that opposition sectors were not able to participate. But despite US intervention and the Coordinadora abstention seven political parties took part in the November elections. The three right-wing parties which put forward candidates were the PCDN, PLI, and PPSC. The three opposing left-wing parties were the PSN, PC de N and MAPML.” [11]

Aftermath[edit]

The Reagan administration denounced the 1984 vote as a ‘Soviet-style sham’ despite some contrary opinions from external observers and the international press, escalated its diplomatic and propaganda campaign against the Sandinista government, and increased military aid to the Contras. “This undercut the new regime’s legitimacy abroad and frustrated its hopes that the 1984 vote might smooth the way at home.” [12] May 1985 saw a trade embargo imposed, followed by $27m of "non-lethal" aid to the Contras, supplemented by $37m of secret "lethal" aid.[2] This led to the October 1985 reimposition of a State of Emergency in Nicaragua.[2]

The New York Times surveyed ordinary Nicaraguans on the 1984 and 1990 elections:

"The longer they [Sandinistas] were in power, the worse things became. It was all lies, what they promised us" (unemployed person); "I thought it was going to be just like 1984, when the vote was not secret and there was not all these observers around" (market vendor); "Don’t you believe those lies [about fraud], I voted my conscience and my principles, and so did everyone else I know" (young mother); "the Sandinistas have mocked and abused the people, and now we have given our vote to [the opposition] UNO" (ex-Sandinista officer).[13]

Presidential election results[14][edit]

Candidate Party/Alliance Votes %
José Daniel Ortega Saaveda Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) 735,967 66.97%
Clemente Guido Chavez Democratic Conservative Party of Nicaragua (PCDN) 154,327 14.04%
Virgilio Godoy Reyes Independent Liberal Party (PLI) 105,560 09.60%
Mauricio Díaz Dávila Popular Social Christian Party (PPSC) 61,199 05.56%
Allan Zambrana Salmerón Communist Party of Nicaragua (PC de N) 16,034 01.45%
Domingo Sánchez Salgado Nicaraguan Socialist Party (PSN) 14,494 01.31%
Isidro Téllez Toruño Marxist-Leninist Popular Action Movement (MAP ML) 11,352 01.03%
Total valid votes 1,098,933 100%
Spoilt and invalid votes 71,209 06.09%
Total votes/Turnout 1,170,142 75.42%
Registered voters 1,551,597
Population 3,165,000

Legislative election [15][edit]

Parties and alliances Votes % Seats
Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) 729,159 66.78% 61
Democratic Conservative Party of Nicaragua (PCDN) 152,883 14.00% 14
Independent Liberal Party (PLI) 105,497 09.66% 09
Popular Social Christian Party (PPSC) 61,525 05.63% 06
Communist Party of Nicaragua (PC de N) 16,165 01.48% 02
Nicaraguan Socialist Party (PSN) 15,306 01.40% 02
Marxist-Leninist Popular Action Movement (MAP ML) 11,343 01.03% 02
Total valid votes 1,091,878 100% 96
Spoilt and invalid votes 78,224 06.69%
Total votes/Turnout 1,170,142 75.41%
Registered voters 1,551,597
Population 3,165,000

References[edit]

  1. ^ Williams, Philip J. “Elections and democratization in Nicaragua: the 1990 elections in perspective.” Journal of Interamerican Studies 32, 4:13-34 (winter 1990). p15
  2. ^ a b c Williams (1990:19)
  3. ^ "1984: Sandinistas claim election victory" BBC News, November 5, 1984
  4. ^ "NICARAGUAN VOTE: 'FREE, FAIR, HOTLY CONTESTED'" The New York Times
  5. ^ Monty G. Marshall and Keith Jaggers, Polity IV Project: Political Regime Characteristics and Transitions, 1800-2010, http://www.systemicpeace.org/polity/Nicaragua2008.pdf
  6. ^ Martin Kriele, “Power and Human Rights in Nicaragua,” German Comments, April 1986, pp56-7,63-7, a chapter excerpted from his Nicaragua: Das blutende Herz Amerikas (Piper, 1986). See also Robert S. Leiken, “The Nicaraguan Tangle,” New York Review of Books, December 5, 1985 and “The Nicaraguan Tangle: Another Exchange,” New York Review of Books, June 26, 1986; Alfred G. Cuzan, Letter, Commentary, December 1985 and “The Latin American Studies Association vs. the United States,” Academic Questions, Summer 1994.
  7. ^ Cornelius, Wayne A. “The Nicaraguan elections of 1984: a reassessment of their domestic and international significance.” Drake, Paul W. and Eduardo Silva. 1986. Elections and democratization in Latin America, 1980-85. La Jolla: Center for Iberian and Latin American Studies, Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies, Institute of the Americas, University of California, San Diego. Pp. 62.
  8. ^ Williams (1990:17-18)
  9. ^ Williams (1990:18)
  10. ^ a b c Williams, Philip J. “Elections and democratization in Nicaragua: the 1990 elections in perspective.” Journal of Interamerican Studies 32, 4:13-34 (winter 1990). p16
  11. ^ Smith, Hazel. Nicaragua: self-determination and survival. London : Pluto Press. 1993. Pp. 149.
  12. ^ Booth, John A. “Electoral observation and democratic transition in Nicaragua.” Electoral observation and democratic transitions in Latin America. 1998. La Jolla: Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies, University of California, San Diego. Pp. 189.
  13. ^ New York Times, March 5, 1990.
  14. ^ Elections in the Americas : a data handbook / ed. by Dieter Nohlen, Vol. 1. [Oxford] [u.a.] : Oxford Univ. Press, 2005. Pp.502.
  15. ^ Elections in the Americas : a data handbook / ed. by Dieter Nohlen, Vol. 1. [Oxford] [u.a.] : Oxford Univ. Press, 2005. Pp.495.

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