INDEPENDENT NEWS

Cablegate: Oas Election Mission Cautiously Bullish On

Published: Fri 21 Jul 2006 08:18 PM
VZCZCXYZ0000
PP RUEHWEB
DE RUEHMU #1593/01 2022018
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 212018Z JUL 06
FM AMEMBASSY MANAGUA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7037
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC
C O N F I D E N T I A L MANAGUA 001593
SIPDIS
SIPDIS
DEPARTMENT FOR WHA/CEN, WHA/USOAS
E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/21/2026
TAGS: PGOV PINR PREL KDEM NU
SUBJECT: OAS ELECTION MISSION CAUTIOUSLY BULLISH ON
ELECTIONS, BEARISH ON POST-ELECTION GOVERNABILITY
REF: A. MANAGUA 1555
B. MANAGUA 0565
C. 2005 MANAGUA 2806
Classified By: Charge d'affaires Peter M. Brennan. Reasons 1.4 (B,D).
1. (C) SUMMARY: Ambassador recently met with the OAS
election mission to assess preparations for Nicaragua's
November 5 elections. OAS mission leader Gustavo Fernandez
said that the OAS is engaging the Supreme Electoral
Commission (CSE) on electoral regulations. The OAS has
recommended that party poll watchers be allowed to observe
the national/voter ID (cedula) issuance process at all stages
and to have access to vote computation centers on Election
Day. The OAS has succeeded with some of its objectives,
missed the mark in others. Although Fernandez believes that
preparations for the elections are mostly on track, some
crucial issues remain. He is also concerned that Nicaragua
will wake up to a political crisis on January 20 when
constitutional changes further eroding presidential powers go
into effect and recommends the OAS help facilitate parties to
reach a governability accord before the election. END
SUMMARY.
ELECTION PREPARATIONS MOSTLY ON TRACK, BUT CONCERNS REMAIN
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2. (C) Ambassador and team met with the OAS election mission
on March 9 to assess the status of preparations for
Nicaragua's November 5 elections and discuss post-election
governability concerns. Although OAS election mission leader
Gustavo Fernandez believed the election preparations are
mostly on track, he shared remaining concerns:
--Politicized CSE: The control of the CSE by two political
parties (FSLN and PLC) who advocate for their own partisan
interests inhibits impartiality and independence at all
stages of the electoral process and disadvantages the other
parties. However, any change in the current system will have
to wait until the next government takes over.
-- Cedula Access: Ambassador expressed concerns that the
CSE/departmental/municipal branches are biased in handling
cedula applications, according priority to FSLN supporters,
while stalling on applications of other Nicaraguans.
Fernandez promised to track this issue. (Note: The OAS met on
July 19 with Movimiento por Nicaragua (Ref. A.), which is on
the forefront of this issue.)
--Voter Roll (Padron) Verification: Fernandez remarked that
the recent voter roll verification only partially scrubbed
the padron and that it did not address the number of deceased
on the list. He suggested that in the future, all
Nicaraguans who do not vote in two consecutive elections
should be automatically removed from the padron.
--Candidate Disqualifications (Inhibiciones): Fernandez noted
that thus far no parties or candidates have been
disqualified/disallowed participation for politically
motivated reasons.
--Preventing the "Raton Loco" ("Crazy Mouse"): Fernandez is
optimistic that voters will be able to vote at the JRV near
their place of residence, even if they do not appear on the
list for that site if their cedula demonstrates they reside
in the area. (Note: Political parties have used the "Raton
Loco" to confuse, discourage, and block voters unaffiliated
with their parties from voting to reduce the votes of
competing parties.)
--Impugning Voter Site Results: Fernandez remains concerned
that the controlling parties in the CSE (FSLN and to a lesser
degree PLC) will attempt to impugn the voting results at
certain polling sites (JRVs) to stack the presidential and
legislative elections in their favor and to the detriment of
the other parties/candidates.
ENSURING TRANSPARENCY AND EQUAL ACCESS FOR ALL PARTIES
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3. (C) Fernandez related that his mission is engaging the
CSE on electoral regulations to be released around the end of
July. The OAS has recommended that party poll watchers of
all political parties be allowed to observe the cedula
issuance process at all stages and to have access to vote
computation centers on Election Day.
OAS INTERIM REPORT CARD
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4. (C) In March, Fernandez delineated a number of priorities
that the OAS and other partners should address and resolve by
June (Ref. B). The results are mixed:
--Hold at least a month of voter registry (padron)
verification to scrub it of deceased members, and other
anomalies. Status: The CSE arranged only two consecutive
weekends for verification.
--Ensure all eligible Nicaraguans have national IDs (cedulas)
so they can vote. Status: Many Nicaraguans, especially
youth, do not have cedulas and have not even applied for
them. According to an MpN study, less than 20% of voting age
students in 165 secondary schools have cedulas. August 6 is
the deadline for cedula application.
--Make sure observers will have complete access to the
process. Status: The OAS is pressing for this.
--Ensure there are no disqualifications (inhibiciones) of
candidates. Status: Thus far there have been no
disqualifications.
--Make sure there will be adequate training of electoral
officials, party monitors (fiscales), and international and
domestic observers. Status: Training is being provided.
--Keep the OAS foot in the CSE's door to monitor and provide
technical assistance to the electoral body. Status: The OAS
believes its access is adequate.
POST-ELECTION GOVERNABILITY A REAL CONCERN
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5. (C) After discussing the status of election preparations,
Fernandez touched on his post-election concerns, warning that
Nicaraguans could wake up to a political crisis on January 20
when constitutional changes further eroding presidential
powers go into effect. He enumerated three possible
solutions to stem this crisis. First, hold on November 5 (as
the GON and PLC candidate Jose Rizo suggest) a referendum on
the constitutional changes. Second, postpone the
implementation of the constitutional changes (as ALN
candidate Eduardo Montealegre suggests). Third, arrange for
OAS and others to facilitate Nicaraguan parties to reach a
governability accord before the election. Of these options,
Fernandez favored the third because there is neither the will
nor wherewithal to arrange a referendum at this late date.
Further, the party that is the runner up in the November
election will want to maintain as much control as possible
over the executive through the National Assembly.
6. (C) OAS election mission political adviser Raul Alconada
endorsed postponing the implementation of the constitutional
changes until 2013, as ALN candidate Eduardo Montealegre has
recommended. Along the lines of his and Dante Caputo's
efforts last year (Ref. C), the OAS would help broker a new
agreement among the political parties and GON, who then would
convince the National Assembly to amend the Framework Law
(Ley Marco) it passed last fall.
7. (C) Fernandez reiterated his view that neither the FSLN
nor the PLC would sign on to such an accord before the
November election because the second-place party will want to
use the Assembly to maintain as much control as possible over
the executive. He suggested that the governability accord
could include committing all parties to respect the
separation of powers, requiring a 2/3 legislative majority to
appoint Supreme Court and CSE magistrates, and raising the
minimum percentage threshold to win the presidential
election. (Note: According to the current electoral law, a
presidential candidate wins the election with 35 percent of
the vote if he/she leads by at least 5 percent.)
8. (C) Alconada suggested that former Chilean President
Lagos would be a more appropriate broker of an eventual
governability accord, noting that the OAS role in ensuring a
clean electoral process could be muddied if it engages in the
post-election governability issue. Lagos and other former
presidents of the region, who will present a workshop in
Managua in late September, could help with the governability
accord. Fernandez replied that he will leave it to SecGen
Insulza to determine who should be involved.
OAS PRESENCE ON THE GROUND
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9. (SBU) Fernandez shared that three additional OAS experts
will be in Managua, and he will return on August 21 to remain
here. The OAS election mission's press coordinator, Juan
Cristobal Soruco, who was present at the meeting, will also
remain in country.
COMMENT
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10. (C) Tensions between Fernandez and Alconada were
palpable. Alconada recently started working as Dante
Caputo's deputy in Washington. Thus, he will not be as much
engaged with the OAS election mission as previously arranged,
and much of the political aspects of the mission will fall on
Fernandez's shoulders. Fernandez is probably right that
neither the PLC nor the FSLN would support a postponement of
the implementation of the constitutional changes. However,
reaching a governability accord may also prove to be
unrealistic, and if achieved, it would carry no legal weight.
Post will examine the objectives presented by the MpN, the
Bolanos government, the OAS Democratic Charter, and other
sources to compile essential points for a notional
governability accord.
BRENNAN
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