Just the Facts: The 1984 Elections
In looking at the Nicaraguan elections scheduled for February 1990, it is useful to recall a few facts about the November 1984 elections, in which the President, Vice President and National Assembly representatives were chosen. Internationally recognized as free and fair, these elections netted the FSLN a resounding 67% of votes cast but also gave opposition candidates over one-third of the seats in the legislature. Parties belonging to the rightwing Coordinadora alliance pulled out at the last moment, but Nicaragua's voters did not. Voter registration and turnout was far higher than in the United States.
All citizens aged 16 and over were eligible to vote. Of those eligible, 93.7% registered. The turnout on voting day was 75.4% of registered voters. Of the 3,892 polling places in the country, 16 were closed on voting day because of contra attacks.
International observation A team of Swedish electoral experts provided advice on the mechanics of registration, vote counting, etc. An estimated 400 observers and 1,000 journalists watched the elections. The observers included the European Parliament, the Washington Office on Latin America, the International Human Rights Group, the US Latin American Studies Association and many other church and parliamentary delegations from around the world. Their judgments, while not uncritical, generally maintained that the elections were free and fair.
"If the elections do not solve all Nicaragua's problems, and elections rarely do, the electoral process served a number of purposes. It created a political opening. Party organizations are developing. Nicaraguans have received a taste of an open political system and it will be increasingly difficult to justify a return to the previous situation. Nicaraguans also have seen an efficient and honest electoral system at work and this should build confidence for future elections."
Source: International Human Rights Law Group and Washington Office on Latin America, "A Political Opening in Nicaragua," Washington, December 1984, pp. 49-50.