Nicaragua’s Political Parties in Two Months of Electoral Campaigning
This article reviews the first two months of the Nicaraguan electoral campaign, which will culminate in national elections on November 4, 1984. Observers of the events in Nicaragua have attested to the pluralistic nature of the campaign, in which the parties vying for power are granted ample opportunity to express their opposition to the current revolutionary government and the FSLN leadership. This opposition has frequently been expressed with virulence. The campaign has helped to distinguish more clearly the positions of the different political parties described in the two previous issues of envío.
On the eve of the campaign: The end of July was a tense period for Nicaragua. The Supreme Electoral Council (CSE), referred to as the fourth branch of state and whose five-member executive body holds overall responsibility for the elections, was about to launch the first phase of the electoral process: voter registration. The preparations for an effective human and material infrastructure –which had begun in April—would soon be put to the test.
Voter registration and a call for abstention
Voter registration was carried out as planned on July 27 through 30 during a dry spell in the rainy season. The people working in the 3,896 polling centers situated throughout the country, including the war zones, registered any Nicaraguan who would be at least 16 years old on November 4, 1984. According to the Electoral Law, only registered citizens will be eligible to vote, given the absence of any other kind of census on which to base a voters list.
In a country that has never experienced honest elections and in which the electoral infrastructure was organized to facilitate frauds, the CSE has faced enormous challenges. These have included selecting polling centers; designing and printing registration record books and voter identification cards (the document issued to each citizen upon registration, which must be presented at the time of voting); training personnel to run the polling centers; and designing a widespread education campaign to explain the electoral process and motivate participation. The limitations in the country’s overall infrastructure—roads, vehicles, gasoline, paper, ink, computer systems—have been exacerbated by the war. The entire registration process cost 90 million córdobas.
It was initially feared that some sectors of the population might abstain from registering. This concern arose not so much from the apprehension that people didn’t want to participate as from the delicate military situation in certain areas of the country, the fact that Nicaraguans weren’t accustomed to voter registration and last-minute problems with the infrastructure.
The registration results surprised everyone. One of the first comments from a US Administration spokesperson was: “We cannot explain what moved the Nicaraguans to register to vote.” The opposition parties of the Democratic Coordinating Committee (CDN) had bet on massive abstention and planned to sweep the populace behind them.* Not even the Nicaraguan government had expected such massive and orderly participation. The figure of 1.56 million registered citizens surpassed the most optimistic estimates and led the National Institute for Census Research to recalculate its population estimates. The successful registration turnout in the cities and even in isolated rural areas, as well as in the majority of war zones,** was interpreted by many to mean that the logistics necessary to ensure widespread and orderly participation on November 4 had already been tested.***
*Although the abstaining CDN parties ran announcements in La Prensa on the registration days calling on the citizenry to register, that newspaper systematically refused to print any of the paid CSE advertisements, including those indicating the location of the polling centers.
** The most serious problems were encountered in Region V (Boaco and Chontales), where several polling centers were forced to remain closed because of fighting in the area; 40 polling centers throughout the country did not open for that reason. The Nicaraguan army could not guarantee the safety of those working at the polls, or of the citizens registering. In special Zones I and II (department of Zelaya), the results had to be flown out by helicopter because of the dangerous roadways. However, in other areas of intense counterrevolutionary activity, such as Region I (Madriz, Estelí, Nueva Segovia) and VI (Jinotega, Matagalpa), voter registration was very high.
***Experts from the Swedish Electoral College have provided the CSE with important advice. It is the first time that Sweden has carried out this task. The Swedish electoral technicians considered the registration results “excellent,” attributing the success to an “efficient application” of all procedures, from the filing of registration lists to the designing of the voter identification card. Sweden will also provide advice on the voting procedures. As in Sweden, the votes will be counted by hand and the distribution of Assembly seats will be calculated by computer. The Swedish government has donated $400.000 worth of paper for the ballots and other printed material.
On July 21, the CDN parties chose Arturo Cruz as their presidential candidate. The arrival of Cruz in Managua and his efforts to unify the opposition coalition added to the political tensions. From his home in Washington, where the former Nicaraguan Ambassador works for the Inter-American Development Bank, Cruz affirmed his confidence in wining the Nicaraguan elections, provided that there would be sufficient “time and freedom.”
Upon his arrival in Nicaragua, Cruz threatened to withdraw from the electoral race if the nine demands cited in the CDN’s December 1983 document were not met. These nine demands are a mixture of “electoral conditions” already being implemented and points that would normally be included in the program of an elected government.* Cruz demanded a “national reconciliation dialogue” as the “basic condition” for his coalition’s participation in the elections, while characterizing the Electoral Law—openly discussed and debated for months by all the parties—as “political distortion” and the entire electoral process as a “hoax.” In his first press statements in Nicaragua, Cruz presented himself as a “mediator” between the Nicaraguan government and the armed counterrevolutionary leaders, claiming that he had contacts with them and calling them “friends.”
*Responding to the CDN’s demands Mauricio Díaz of the Popular Social Christian Party (PPSC) stated that “the opposition coalition is simply asking the FSLN to dismantle its structures.” Daniel Ortega said of the CDN: “They want to win the elections before they’ve even registered their candidates.” Bayardo Arce added: “If democracy is to be respected, you cannot ask a government to change its policies just so you’ll run in the elections. In an electoral process, these policies will be decided by the election winners.
Cruz’s arrival at the Managua airport turned out to be one of the biggest surprises of the electoral campaign. Only some 400 people showed up to receive him, despite the publicity provided by La Prensa. Expecting a much more significant reception, the Nicaraguan government contributed a large number of plain-clothes security agents to the welcoming party.
For several days, the CDN organized meetings and rallies at which one could hear slogans like: “If we get Arturo Cruz elected, the toothpaste shortage will be corrected!” Such chants referred to the current limitations on certain consumer items. In Chinandega and Matagalpa, Cruz’s first public meetings ended in street violence, perpetrated by both Sandinista and Cruz sympathizers. Many people had high expectations that Cruz’s coalition would compete in the electoral race. However, the CDN did not register its candidates by the July 25 deadline stipulated in the Electoral Law. Nor did it take advantage of the extended deadline (August 4) or the 24-hour prolongation after that. Since then, the CDN has called on the other parties to abstain and threatened that, if the opposition coalition’s demands aren’t met, the war will cause a “blood bath.”
Despite their withdrawal from the electoral process and the National Council of Political Parties’ decision to revoke their legal status in accordance with the Electoral Law, the CDN parties continue to maintain a political presence via La Prensa, as well as through meetings, assemblies and attempts to hold open air demonstrations, which should be prohibited due to their loss of legal status. The challenge represented by the CDN has created a tense political climate and violent street clashes between militant Sandinistas and CDN supporters in León, Boaco and Masaya. These confrontations are reported by the rightwing media as “mob attacks.”
During these last two months, the CDN continued to play up the same themes it has been using for the last few years to oppose revolutionary changes: (1) Are there adequate conditions for holding elections? (Will the CDN parties register their candidates?) (2) There should be a national political dialogue. (Will it include the leaders of the armed counterrevolution? (3) The dialogue should deal with a series of basic issues related to the issue of peace. (What are these basic topics and how many are there?) (4) Is there still enough time to salvage the situation? (Can there be more time for them to register their candidates?) (5) The elections should be postponed. (Why and for how long?) The tensions produced by these demands, which have always been ambiguous, imprecise and changing, continue to reveal that the CDN is more interested in stalling the electoral process and causing discontent than in demonstrating a will to square off with the FSLN in the elections.
Throughout the two months of campaigning, the leaders of the abstaining parties have persistently accused the six opposition parties running in the elections of being FSLN “collaborators,” while claiming their abstentionist coalition to be the only legitimate opposition force in the country. They base their accusation on the fact that three of the contending parties—the PLI, PPSC and PSN—were previously FSLN allies in the Patriotic Revolutionary Front (FPR). The CDN leaders fail to mention that the parties of that former alliance, particularly the PLI, currently maintain positions of strong opposition to the FSLN.
In their rallies, these three parties, together with the Democratic Conservative Party (PCD), which has always been opposed to the FSLN, have continued to criticize Cruz and the CDN for their decision to abstain. The following are some of the presidential candidates’ opinions on the matter:
* [Not running in the elections] “is the best way to ensure that the FSLN will remain in power,” says PLI presidential candidate Virgilio Godoy, despite the fact that his party has threatened to abstain more than any other registered party and has come closer than any other to supporting the CDN’s call for talks with the counterrevolutionaries.
* Domingo Sánchez of the Nicaraguan Socialist Party (PSN) has called on the CDN to “be patriotic by dropping its abstentionist attitude,” which only “supports the uncompromising position of Ronald Reagan.” “No one has the right to say that the conditions (necessary for an electoral contest) do not exist.”
* Mauricio Díaz of the PPSC: [Abstention] “is an error that harms the people of this nation; it could lead to a Grenada-like situation.” [The Social Christian Party—PSC] “erred in deciding from Washington, not Caracas, to abstain from the elections…. Christian Democracy has traditionally developed within the rules of the game: participatory and representative democracy….* From the comfortable position of abstention, the PSC discredits those of us running in the elections.”
*Throughout August, there were continuous rumors that the PSC would register its candidates and run as a single party, thereby breaking with the CDN. In fact, when the CDN made known its decision to abstain, Luis Vega Miranda, the Christian Democratic leader, declared that this decision would be more costly to the PSC than to the other two CDN parties because it was the only one with a significant social base and strong international contacts.
The FSLN contends that the CDN parties “have sacrificed everything in exchange for nothing” by committing “political suicide” and eliminating themselves from the “historic task” of contributing to the new Constitution. The FSLN leaders’ judgment of the CDN has grown progressively harsh. They interpret abstention to mean an alignment with Washington’s plans to prepare for an invasion of the region.
The electoral campaign: Free, pluralistic, and austereThree months of campaigning in a small country with only 3 million inhabitants seems sufficient time for the various political parties to expose their views to the people. Considering that campaigns last for three weeks in Britain, six weeks in Spain and two months in the US, the time allowed in Nicaragua is clearly adequate.
In addition, there has been ample freedom for the campaign. Isolated incidents and irregularities are bound to crop up, as in electoral campaigns anywhere in the world, particularly considering the deep social transformations that have been underway in Nicaragua for the last five years and the war, which has taken over seven thousand lives since July 1979.
On July 19, 1984, the State of Emergency was lifted to allow freedom of movement, public rallies and demonstrations, and the freedom of assembly. Press censorship was lifted, except for information concerning economic and military matters. Despite the continued aggression, these basic civil liberties were restored to help the electoral campaign develop normally. On August 6, these freedoms were broadened to include the right to strike and the right of appeal and habeas corpus. In addition, press censorship was limited only to military information. Since that date, dozens of prisoners jailed for political crimes that violate the Emergency Law have been pardoned. The PCD leaders had conditioned their participation in the elections on the release of those prisoners, many of whom were PCD party members.
In order to ensure fair distribution of media coverage for all the parties running, the government has allotted each party the weekly sum of 30 minutes on state television and 45 minutes on state radio. The private radio stations must sell a minimum of 5 minutes per day to each party. The government has granted all parties 9 million córdobas to facilitate access to this media time or the purchase of materials for their campaigns. (Political parties in Nicaragua never received subsidies of this kind in the past.) Toward the end of September, the state reduced the cost of radio and television time by 50%.
Since August 1, the seven contending parties have used almost all the radio stations in the country to publicize their views with inserts, news briefs and specially prepared programs. The two religious stations, Radio Católica and Hondas de Luz, Catholic and Protestant respectively, are the only ones prohibited from broadcasting party publicity. The country’s TV network dedicates a half hour every evening to the different campaigning parties. The parties take turns, using 15 minutes of this space twice a week.
Having opted for abstention, La Prensa publishes no campaign publicity for any of the parties running in the elections. El Nuevo Diario prints the views of all contending parties, and Barricada, the FSLN’s official party newspaper, reports on the activities of all parties but publishes only FSLN publicity.
Clearly, the Nicaraguan people are being provided extensive access to a wide array of viewpoints. The various candidates and political leaders travel all over the country, holding public meetings, rallies, assemblies and debates. As in any campaign, some opinions are well presented, whereas others are simplistic and demagogic.
One outstanding example of demagoguery concerns the international aid workers in Nicaragua. La Prensa had been insulting them for some time, but the PLI, followed by other parties, recently chose to jump on the bandwagon, attempting to stir up “nationalistic” feelings. According to the PLI’s Virgilio Godoy, “the foreigners produce nothing and consume everything.” They are “filibusters like those from the 19th century…. “They’ve taken over the country and use it as if it were their own private hacienda.” Godoy even claimed that, if the PLI wins the elections, he will deport all foreign workers from Nicaragua. The PCD’s presidential candidate, Clemente Guido, said that “rice and beans have fattened stomachs that are not Nicaraguan.” Mauricio Díaz, of the PPSC, has called the aid workers a “bunch of freeloaders.”
Those living in Nicaragua have been witnesses to the fact that this country’s electoral process provides sufficient time, freedom, pluralism, and opposition. While this does not mean that the electoral campaign has been a model of perfection, it has made significant progress from the time that it began.
Almost all the registered parties have presented the CSE with complaints, the most frequent of which are: 1) their publicity (graffiti* or posters) has been destroyed or altered; 2) there have been verbal threats or physical aggression against their activists; 3) party sympathizers have been prevented from displaying their publicity or moving freely about; 4) publicity has been placed on public buildings. The majority of those accused of such acts are FSLN supporters. So that it can take effective legal action, the CSE asks that the charges be as precise as possible.
*Out of respect for its fellow citizens, and because of the scarcity of paint, the PSN decided not to paint any more campaign publicity on the sides of houses and asked the other parties to do the same. The CSE was receiving complaints about the excess of painted graffiti and its sloppy appearance.
Although such abuses occurred frequently at the outset of the campaign—at one point, the PLI threatened to withdraw from the race if abuses continued—all the parties commented on the notable improvement in controlling the situation during a recent meeting convened by the CSE to evaluate the campaign. Nevertheless, the PLI continues to insist that the CSE does not respond seriously enough to its demands.
Since the beginning of the campaign, the CSE has encouraged the parties and the general public to make Nicaragua an example of civil education, calling on them to respect the rights and dignity of all contending parties and to refrain from insulting the candidates and their families.
The strongest denunciations of abuses, some of which have even been attributed to the CSE, have come from La Prensa. Its often far-fetched accusations reveal the newspaper’s intentions to discredit the upcoming elections. In response to accusations by La Prensa regarding voter registration procedures, the CSE president published a firm communiqué on August 8, stating: “The CSE is not preparing fraudulent elections; on the contrary, La Prensa is attempting to establish a basis on which to accuse us of an electoral fraud.”
The electoral campaign is being conducted in Nicaragua not only within the context of a war and underdevelopment, but also in the midst of a great shortage of the materials and resources necessary for a campaign. Limited supplies of paper and ink have reduced the production of flyers and posters. The wind, rain and dust quickly discolor what few posters and printed graffiti there are. The printing of 4 million brightly colored ballots has entailed weeks of hard work and an expense of $192,000.
There is little resemblance between the methods of this campaign and the squandering consumerism characteristic of campaigns in other countries. The Electoral Law prohibits parties from distributing gifts in exchange for votes. In addition, the lack of photographs displaying the individual candidates’ faces is evidence to the fact that this campaign does not focus on the candidates’ personalities, as in some countries.
In this campaign, the FSLN’s revolutionary project, which has had to pay the high cost of the war and people’s suffering, is contending with two kinds of alternatives: the reformist plans of the PSN, PPSC, PLI and PCD on the one hand, and the radical proposals (considered highly irrealistic by many observers) of the PCdeN and MAP-ML on the other.
The contending partiesWe won’t provide a systematic comparison of the different parties’ platforms because the result would only be long and complicated. Instead, we have chosen to point out several particularities in each party’s program, thereby brushing a portrait of each one’s campaign style*
*For a better understanding of the parties’ platforms and campaign statements, we suggest that the reader consult Part I and Part II of “Nicaraguan Political Parties and Movements” in the August and September issues of envío. These two articles provide an historical perspective and analytical description of the political parties in Nicaragua.
Independent Liberal Party (PLI). Soon after it was announced that the electoral process was to begin, the PLI became the first party to break away from the Revolutionary Patriotic Front (FPR) alliance with the FSLN, PSN and PPSC.
Its presidential and vice presidential candidates are Virgilio Godoy, 50, a lawyer and Nicaragua’s minister of labor between 1979 and February 1984; and Constantino Pereira, 49, an economist.
In its “Program for Action” (February 26, 1984), the PLI proposes economic planning instead of an expanding state economy, as well as the development of the mixed economy. On the international level, faithful to the tradition of Central American liberalism, the PLI has insisted on developing tighter relations with Nicaragua’s regional neighbors.
The PLI has affirmed that it is participating in the electoral campaign “in order to restore peace,” making this subject the central theme of its publicity. One of the PLI’s radio slogans proclaims: “In a country where war is the main activity, there can be no wellbeing or peace for the people. A vote for the PLI is a vote for peace.”
According to the PLI, the war “is a profitable business for those governing us.” Therefore, it has announced that its “first task” will be to demilitarize the country and nationalize the army because “the army will not be a main concern for a Liberal government.” The PLI’s analysis of the war is based on the concept of the “East-West conflict”: “We refuse to be an experiment designed to settle differences between two major powers.”
Regarding economics, the PLI maintains that “the mixed economy is nothing more than an export item” for the government. The PLI concentrates on emphasizing the present limitations with respect to the supply of basic products: “We should erect a monument in honor of the phrase, ‘We’re all out of them.’”
Throughout his campaign, Godoy has criticized practically every aspect of the revolutionary process, including the Literacy Crusade. He has claimed that “the product” of the last five years is an “enormous disappointment” and that the government “has virtually tried to turn Nicaragua into a huge concentration camp.”
The PLI’s vice-presidential candidate, Constantino Pereira, has made the strongest personal attacks of anyone participating in the electoral campaign. He has accused the FSLN of appointing members of the country’s well-know aristocratic families to the Cabinet and other high positions for the mere sake of keeping their names in Nicaragua’s power structure.
The PLI assures that it presently holds the favor of 25% of Nicaragua’s voters and that by election time it will be in a position to have from 35 to 45 of its candidates elected to the 90-member National Assembly. The PLI has stated that if it wins the elections, it will form a “conciliation” government, dissolve the special courts that currently rule on counterrevolutionary crimes, decree a broad amnesty, and, after the writing of a new Constitution, call for new general elections. The PLI has also promised that it will bring peace to the country if elected, although it has not specified how it will go about this.
Campaign Talk* “While it is true that part of this crisis has come from outside the country, other factors are the responsibility of those who rule here. They have broken all the promises made since July 19, 1979… If Sandino were alive, he would vote for the PLI” (Virgilio Godoy, San Juan de Oriente, August 18).
* (After making strong criticism of the Latin American Popular Music Festival in Managua, attended by 400,000 people from August 22-26) “Not even the Romans dared as much. They at least offered the people bread with the circus. Here there’s only the circus!” (Virgilio Godoy, La Trinidad, August 25).
Nicaraguan Socialist Party (PSN). The PSN was the only member of the FPR alliance that wanted “all the revolutionary forces” to remain united for the electoral bout.
Its presidential and vice presidential candidates are Domingo Sánchez Salgado, a veteran Labor leader and, at 69, the oldest candidate for executive office; and Adolfo Everstz, 48, an engineer who resigned several months ago from his position as director of poultry production for the Ministry of Agriculture.
In their “Electoral Political Program” (August 1, 1984), the Socialists contend that “the Sandinista people’s revolution represents our people’s most significant victory thus far.” They add: “The PSN has supported the revolutionary process from the very beginning and will always support it because of its deeply grassroots and anti-imperialist nature.” During the campaign, Sánchez Salgado said: “We have more affinity to the FSLN than to any other party. We are political and ideological brothers…We defend the revolution as if it were our own child.” The PSN’s program proposes: 1) to strengthen defense; 2) to put the economy in order; 3) to perfect the state apparatus; and 4) to exercise grassroots democracy.
During the electoral campaign, the PSN hopes to “revive the prestige” by holding itself “in the center,” putting its main emphasis on what it calls “revolution within the revolution,” which is intended to rebuke arbitrary actions, opportunism, bureaucratism, and “sectarian arrogance.” One of the PSN’s radio slogans is: “We support a revolution without sectarianism and with justice.” One Socialist proposal is the enactment of an “honesty law,” which would entail a careful selection of civil servants.
The PSN proposes the creation of an executive branch in which there would be “representation of all the patriotic and revolutionary forces.” In the field of economic planning, the Socialists have criticized government mistakes, contending that they have caused production to drop to “disastrous levels.” The PSN’s economic proposals include the consolidation and expansion of the Agrarian Reform, the enactment of a foreign investment law, development of the construction industry and support for what it calls the “four forms of property” that exist in the mixed economy (state, private, mixed and cooperative). In addition, the PSN insists on the importance of developing a clear policy in favor of the unification of Nicaragua’s working class.
In its campaign, the PSN has denounced the US, blaming it for the war on Nicaragua. The PSN favors the reinforcement of the country’s military-defense structures.
Campaign Talk* “The FSLN is the only party that can solve the country’s problems. What can the other parties offer? Dr. Godoy repressed the workers. What can the Conservative Party offer? It only made backward laws. The PSN didn’t make the (revolutionary) laws, but it did fight for them.” (Domingo Sánchez Salgado, Granada, August 12)
* “The train to socialism runs on two rails. One can be the FSLN and the other the PSN.” (Sánchez Salgado)
Popular Social Christian Party (PPSC). The PPSC was a member of the FPR.
Its candidates for President and Vice President are: Mauricio Díaz, 34, a lawyer, and Guillermo Mejía, 46, a labor leader.
In its “Basic Platform of Government” (May 24, 1984), the PPSC advocates a brand of “socialism inspired by Christianity,” and “not just the road halfway between capitalism and communism.” The PPSC proposes “substantial changes” in the revolutionary process. Regarding the economy, the PPSC favors cooperative or “community” property and the transformation of what is now state property into workers’ property. According to the PPSC, these changes could be carried out through different forms of self-management. Only “strategic areas” (basic services) would remain under state control. The PPSC claims that the “principle of participation” should serve as the cornerstone for social organization. It also advocates the decentralization of decision-making as a means to fight bureaucratism. Its solutions to the country’s economic problems would be increased managerial participation by workers in their companies and a considerable input of foreign capital.
In its campaign, which the PPSC has described as “a civilian crusade to rescue the nation,” it has stressed Christian values. Its slogans are indicative of this: “Christian power”, “Christians are for peace,” “We want a Christian revolution,” “Fear is neither Christian nor Nicaraguan.” According to Guillermo Mejía, the PPSC message is directed at 99.9% of Nicaraguans: Christians. The PPSC hopes to win 15% of the vote.
With regard to religion, the PPSC recommends the inclusion of religious education in public schools upon the request of the students’ parents, chaplaincy services in the military ranks and the establishment of a conscientious objectors’ option for those called upon to fulfill their military service.
Although the PPSC criticizes the US government for its participation in the war on Nicaragua and recognizes the need for military defense, it claims that the FSLN is the one that “has accepted the challenge of that war.”
Campaign Talk* “Sensible Nicaraguans will vote for the Popular Social Christian Party… because it incarnates Christian values and puts them into practice” (Mauricio Díaz during an August 23 television program).
* “What we have here is not socialism; this is a country with a capitalist economy, and a deteriorated one at that” (Guillermo Mejía in a panel discussion on September 26 at Managua’s Central American University).
Communist Party of Nicaragua (PCdeN) Over the last five years, the PC de N has continually opposed government policy, particularly in the area of the economy.
Its candidates for President and Vice President are Allan Zambrana, 30, a labor leader; and Manuel Pêrez Estrada, 70, a union leader.
In its platform (May 15, 1984), the PCdeN makes a clear distinction between its short and medium-range programs. In the latter, the PCdeN proposes the dictatorship of the proletariat, as well as the development of socialism and a communist society in Nicaragua. In order to reach these objectives, the PCdeN’s short-term program advocates “the sure route of peaceful transition toward socialism, “in which the Agrarian Reform would be “the primary and fundamental task.” However, this Agrarian Reform would be different from the one promoted by the Sandinista government, which the PCdeN has accused of broadening capitalism’s social base by transforming thousands of agricultural workers into small landowners and thereby prevented the formation of a worker-peasant alliance capable of establishing the genuine power of the people.
The PCdeN charges that the government is guilty of “agrarianism” and proposes that all the country’s land be permanently turned over to the peasants for their use, without the creation of private property rights. The PCdeN defines the government’s economic policy as “developmentalist.” The measures it recommends for changing this tendency are refusal to acknowledge the country’s foreign debt or receive capitalist loans, a tightening of relations with the socialist nations and a policy of severe austerity.
The PCdeN’s campaign style has been sober. It has held few public rallies and has chosen not to use television. The main thrust of its campaign has been to point out what it considers to be the government’s non-revolutionary economic policies, including the mixed economy and certain facets of its wage and labor measures.
The radio slogan most often repeated by the PCdeN is: “We’re going to win the elections because that’s what the country needs! Can we do it? You can be sure of it!”
Marxist-Leninist Popular Action Movement (MAP-ML). The MAP-ML has maintained a position of active opposition to the revolutionary government, particularly in the fields of economics and labor.
Its presidential and vice presidential candidates are: Isidro Têllez, 36, a union leader; and Juan Alberto Henríquez, 38, a journalist.
In its program, which is not dated, the MAP-ML distinguishes between strategy and tactics. The strategic program contemplates the development of “proletarian socialism and communism.” As means to reach this goal, the MAP-ML sets forth in its tactical program a series of concrete tasks that will vary in accordance with changing situations. Therefore, these tasks are described in a broad manner with phrases such as: “the strengthening and development of the working-class vanguard party” or “the political and ideological independence of the working class with respect to the bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie.” While the MAP-ML has been extremely active in making its positions known, especially to the working class, its electoral campaign, described as a means to “deepen the revolution,” has been noticeable subdued, although it has made use of television. The MAP-ML intends to use the campaign period primarily to train its cadres.
In its appearances, the MAP-ML has formulated ample criticism of the mixed economy, contending that it “recreates capitalist relationships and has resulted in repression against the workers’ movement.” The MAP-ML has also continually criticized US imperialism, while insisting on Nicaragua’s need for military defense. For example, the MAP-ML has suggested that the money used by the state to provide incentives for private producers should be earmarked for the purchase of more and better weapons.
In its publicity, the MAP-ML usually reminds its audience that its Anti-Somoza People’s Militias (MILPAS) were “the only armed force to fight alongside the people and the Sandinistas.” (The MILPAS conducted several spectacular armed feats in 1978 and 1979.) One of the MAP-ML slogans is: “Not one vote for the bourgeoisie! Bullets for the imperialist!”
Campaign Talk* “No, we cannot say exploitation and oppression have ended. The bourgeoisie, large landowners and meager wages still exist! Socialism with the bourgeoisie, socialism in negotiations with the imperialists, and socialism behind the workers’ backs: that’s what we call the Sandinista model” (Juan Alberto Henríquez in a panel discussion on October 3 at Managua’s Central American University).
* “We’re not looking for votes in this campaign. What we want is to get inside the heads of the workers, of progressive men who are thinking about the proletarian revolution. We want a government that will be controlled by the masses… because now the national and international bourgeoisie are the ones making the decisions concerning this revolution” (Ibid).
Democratic Conservative Party (PCD). From the time of the 1979 Sandinista victory, the three Conservative groups that joined to form the PCD in March 1979 have maintained a position of continual opposition to the revolutionary process.
The PCD presidential and vice presidential candidates are Clemente Guido, 54, a medical doctor, and Mercedes Rodríguez, a businesswoman, landowner and widow of General Emiliano Chamorro, the Conservative leader who held power before the Somoza era and later reached a deal with Somoza García. (In its radio slogans, the PCD recalls and cheers the memory of General Chamorro.)
In its program, formulated in March 1979, the PCD declares that its “social and political base is composed of rural workers.” It proposes “social peace among the social classes” and insists on respect for private property, providing that the latter serves a social function. It advocates the abolition of monopolies and the implementation of an efficient fiscal policy. Its program also calls for mandatory military service. On the level of politics, the PCD recommends political pluralism, municipal autonomy and free elections.
In its campaign, the PCD has defined itself as a “centrist” party. One of its radio slogans says: “Union member, the Democratic Conservative Party is waiting for you at your workplace! We are the middle class fighting for your rights!”
With respect to the economy, PCD publicity stresses the so-called “social pact,” which would entitle workers to a share of company profits and the right to oversee its management. The employers would be provided with guarantees, incentives and assurance that their property would not be confiscated if it remained productive. The Conservatives describe the present Agrarian Reform as “subjective, abusive and theoretical.” They favor “Conservative cooperatives” based on their social pact.
If the Conservatives won the elections, they say they would implement three initial measures: the abolition of what they have called “confiscations”;* the elimination of military service (although they had proposed mandatory military service in their 1979 program); and establishment of good relations with the United States. (“The Yankees may be bad, but their dollars aren’t.”)
*Aside from the initial confiscation of property belonging to the Somoza and their supporters, the government has only performed expropriations based on the Agrarian Reform Law and the Law Against Decapitalization. These expropriations sometimes entail economic compensation.
In his campaign, Guido has promised “the revolution of abundance” and congratulated those mothers who have prevented their children from doing military service. In their rallies, the Conservatives recall their “Golden Era” (the period between 1857 and 1893), when, they say, “abundance was so great that dogs were leashed with strings of sausage.”
Campaign Talk* “Nicaraguan, we ask of you just one day of civic spirit, just a few minutes of civic spirit, so that, by marking a cross under the green flag of the Democratic Conservative Party of Nicaragua, you can erase once and for all the nightmare of the last five years” (Clemente Guido, San Lorenzo, August 19).
* “I want to remind you of the prayer for freedom you should say every night before going to bed. It will give you courage to vote for the Conservative Party. This prayer for freedom is: “Onward against the FSLN!” (Clemente Guido, Nagarote, September 15).
* “The Contadora Act is a romantic document, the kind an elementary-school student might write as homework for his social studies. It’s just another document in Latin America’s inoperative political literature and only serves as a fig leaf so the Sandinistas can continue to say they’re peace loving” (Clemente Guido, Masaya, September 30).
Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN). The FSLN has directed the revolutionary process for the last five years at the head of a government of national unity.
Its candidates for President and Vice President are Daniel Ortega, 39, Comandante of the Revolution; and Sergio Ramírez , 42, a writer and a lawyer.
The FSLN has not presented a platform. Instead, it has made known its “Battle Plan,” a synthesis of the FSLN’s historical program, as well as the accomplishments and goals of the revolutionary project already underway. Therefore, all the FSLN’s commitments are expressed in a manner that indicates continuity.
Keeping in mind the upcoming drafting of a new Nicaraguan Constitution, the FSLN affirms in its campaign documents that it plans “to include basic orientations for the organization of people’s power and the revolutionary state.”
“The Sandinista people’s revolution is guaranteeing broad-based participation by the people… in the National System of Economic Direction, in the planning process on the levels of sectors, regions, companies or work places, and in state decision-making via the mass organizations, which have a say in the policies that affect them. The objective is to combine representative democracy with direct and participative democracy… to create a better kind of people’s democracy, based on the real expression of people’s power.”
The document also specifies that “the organization of people’s power and of governmental management should have a territorial dimension.”
Before members of the Socialist International who met recently in Rio de Janeiro, Bayardo Arce stated that the FSLN was confident of receiving 80% of the popular vote.
An important element in the FSLN’s campaign has been the format of the weekly “Face the People” encounters, which the FSLN has been carrying out for the last five years. These meetings, which are broadcast on radio and television, bring together revolutionary leaders or Cabinet members with different sectors of the population (neighborhood residents, professionals, interest groups, grassroots groups, etc.) The leaders or members of the government talk about subjects apt to interest broad sectors of the society and answer questions put forth by the audience.
A noteworthy characteristic of the FSLN’s campaign is the realism with which it evaluates the country’s problems. This attitude can be seen in the FSLN’s official campaign documents: “The FSLN declares… that the chances of quickly improving the nation’s standard of living are very slim.” The FSLN also speaks of the continuation of the war, the obstacles in the way of achieving peace, the difficulties in moving ahead with development projects that have already been started, and the dim economic prospects.
The FSLN has organized 70,000 activists for door-to-door campaigning throughout the country. It considers that these visits, which began is September, are more important than any other means of publicity. This direct contact with the people has characterized the FSLN campaign, although it seemed at first that the FSLN was opting for showy and expensive publicity methods.
“Onward with the Front” is the FSLN’s only electoral slogan. It sums up the tone that the FSLN would like this campaign to have: that of just another stage in the revolutionary process.
Campaign Talk* “It will take a lifetime to achieve full happiness; many of us will die along the way, and the new generations will have to take up where we have left off.”
What is the significance of this campaign?Regardless of the results of the November 4 elections, the past two months of campaign have revealed certain factors that are essential to the political assessment of Nicaragua.
The Abstentionist Parties: The three parties comprising the CDN, though not participating officially, have been very active in the electoral campaign. Following essentially the same pattern that has characterized them for the last five years, these parties have insistently demanded legal conditions, while refusing to respect the country’s new legal framework.
No agreement was reached in the recent Rio de Janeiro talks between the FSLN and the CDN, for the latter was not ready to commit itself on the slippery terrain of having the counterrevolutionaries cease their military aggression. If the FSLN had agreed to postpone the elections in order to allow the CDN to participate, the revolution would have been exposed to serious risks: several more months of “illegitimacy” under the threat of an invasion by the reelected Reagan forces; and the inevitable incident that would have provided the CDN with a pretext for again withdrawing from the contest and Reagan with a justification for intervention on the grounds of “disorder and internal chaos.”
The CDN’s position regarding Contadora and its claim to be the only “legitimate opposition” strangely resemble the statements issued by the US government on these matters. Both the CDN and the Reagan Administration have cloaked their strategies with the “defense of freedom.”
The Registered Parties: They have led an aggressive campaign against the FSLN, which some of them accuse in different ways of having arrogantly provoked the US wrath and thus of causing the present war. Their head-on opposition to the FSLN gives them a hard row to hoe, for they persistently ignore an important historical reality: the US has never been willing to tolerate the establishment of a Central American regime outside the realm of its control. The omission of this factor has led the opposition parties to make frequent use of demagoguery.
It is difficult to predict how many votes the opposition parties will be able to muster. Following an extended period of relative inactivity during the Somoza era, these last five years may not have provided them with enough time to organize their social bases.
The leftist parties worked underground during the Somoza years, but it was the FSLN’s cause, and not theirs, that the Nicaraguan people supported. These parties will probably receive only a small percentage of the popular vote.
Two branches of Nicaragua’s oldest “traditional” parties are taking part in the electoral process: the PCD and the PLI. Both these parties can justly claim that they did not collaborate with the Somoza dictatorship. The same may be said of the more recent Latin American “tradition,” represented by the PPSC. It is not easy to judge how far their roots reach into the Nicaraguan population. However, it does seem clear that the hostility toward the FSLN displayed by the PLI and the PPSC during the present campaign is a result of the opinion that their FPR membership for over four years didn’t help them. They now obviously intend to eliminate all vestiges of the former image in which they were portrayed as partners of the FSLN.
Will these parties be able to capitalize on the discontent in different sectors of the population? In comparison with the giant demonstrations organized by the FSLN, their public rallies have attracted only small numbers of people.
The FSLN: The upcoming elections are full of challenges for the FSLN. From the perspective of Western-style democracy, an ideal situation for the FSLN would be an election in which the opposition parties received 35-40% of the popular vote. This would make the results “credible.” However, from the viewpoint of Nicaragua, where a broad national consensus is necessary if deep structural changes are to continue, the FSLN would stand in better stead if it won 70-80% of the vote.
Any party in power is subject to an erosion of its popularity, and no form of national unity can satisfy the interests of an entire nation’s social forces for any significant length of time, thus the FSLN may not win an overwhelming victory. A key element in these elections is the counterrevolutionary aggression, which could serve to unite the majority of voters in favor of the FSLN. Which will weigh heavier in the scale: the understanding that the current war is an attack on the will to improve the living standard of the poor or the desire to put an end to the war at any cost? The people’s perception of the war will be a deciding factor in the elections.