Nicaragua: FSLN-led Alianza Nicaragua Triunfa wins; Daniel Ortega re-elected in landslide (+ audio interview)

On November 12, Toni Solo from Nicaragua spoke to Latin Radical's Warwick Fry about the landslide electoral victory for the Alianza Nicaragua Triunfa and Daniel Ortega.

Part 1

Part 2.

By Toni Solo

November 7, 2011 -- Tortilla con Sal -- No one should underestimate the epoch-making election result in Nicaragua for the Sandinista-led Alianza Nicaragua Triunfa and its candidate Daniel Ortega. The result marks a return to levels of support for the Sandinista popular revolution last seen in Nicaragua's first ever democratic election in 1984. The Frente Sandinista de Liberacion Nacional (FSLN, Sandinista National Liberation Front) and its allies have won more than 60% of the national vote. It is no surprise that the anti-democratic right-wing parties refuse to accept their crushing defeat.

This is a categorical reversal of a consistent voting pattern over 20 years, first established in the historic elections of 1990. Since those elections, the combined vote of the Nicaraguan right-wing parties has always outnumbered the electoral support for the FSLN.

This reality forced the FSLN into alliances and negotiations with right-wing parties and engendered the FSLN's strategy of dividing the opposition that paid off in 2006.

Now, thanks to successful internationally recognised economic and social policies, the FSLN vote outnumbers the combined electoral support of the Nicaraguan right wing.

Not only has Ortega been re-elected president with a massive popular mandate, the FSLN and its allies will also have a decisive majority in the country's legislature, the National Assembly.

This will mean an end to the regular crisis-inducing legislative boycotts by opposition parties that seriously limited Ortega's government between 2007 and the present. It will also allow for possible constitutional reforms.

Except for the European Union electoral team, all foreign and national teams monitoring the electoral process in Nicaragua have formally reported favourably on the elections and the voting process.

Organization of American States secretary general Jose Miguel Insulza recognised the overwhelmingly peaceful and orderly conduct of the vote and the huge participation of Nicaragua's population in the elections. Adverse reaction to the results from the losing right-wing parties flies in the face of the opinion of hundreds of foreign specialists who accompanied the electoral process.

All the right-wing parties that took part did badly. The tiny ALN and APRE alliances failed to get more than a fraction of 1% of the vote. The PLI-MRS Alliance won about 30%.

As the PLI-MRS and its media and non-government organisation allies said they would do if the PLI-MRS were to lose, they have rejected the election result as fraudulent. Arnoldo Aleman, whose PLC political alliance has come a distant third, with less than 10% of the vote, has also said his party does not accept the result.

The right-wing parties’ cynical dishonesty may have worked in the wake of the less important 2008 municipal elections. But the overwhelming landslide victory by the FSLN in this vitally important national electoral process renders futile the right-wing losers’ claims of fraud.

Likewise, the result leaves supposedly left-wing critics of the FSLN and Ortega, like Monica Baltodano and Henry Ruiz, completely discredited — only ill-informed foreign opinion takes them seriously.

Hundreds of thousands of Sandinista supporters celebrated the re-election of Ortega throughout the country.

Leaders of the losing right-wing parties huff-and-puff about refusing to accept the election result. They are clearly in a minority. If they attempt to resort to violence, they are likely to condemn themselves to political irrelevance for a generation. The new Sandinista majority in Nicaragua will never forgive them.


Right-wing cynics were trying their best in the run up to Sunday’s election in Nicaragua. Foreseeing victory for the incumbent, President Daniel Ortega (he won with 62 per cent of the vote), they argued that at the least sign of electoral manipulation the United States should put its foot down. Robert Callahan, the US ambassador to Nicaragua from 2008 until July this year, proposed a four-point plan for the US to follow in the wake of likely electoral fraud. His suggestions included refusing to appoint a new ambassador and cutting off US aid.

US criticism of elections in developing countries is highly selective, but in any case Ortega has much less need to worry than he would have done a few years ago. The USA’s poor political reputation in Latin America under Bush has barely recovered under Obama, especially given his failure to condemn the coup d’état in Honduras. Ortega can keep up his anti-US rhetoric while knowing that the United States, Nicaragua’s biggest trading partner, won’t put any blocks on US business or tourism, which helped Nicaragua’s economy grow by 4.5 per cent last year. Ortega doesn’t need America’s strings-attached aid programmes.

Besides, he seems to have won cleanly and by a clear margin. Turnout was nearly 70 per cent: people have only had a democratic vote since 1984 and place a high value on it. I’ve just spoken to someone whose family made a costly overnight trip to vote in the remote village where they are registered. The big vote-winner was the government’s anti-poverty programmes: ‘Plan Roof’, ‘Zero Hunger’, ‘Zero Usury’, ‘Streets for the People’. Under Zero Hunger, women in rural areas are given a cow, a pig, hens and some basic help with looking after them. Many houses now exhibit new zinc roofs. Partly as a result, rural poverty fell by 5 per cent in 2010. Even the elite shouldn’t complain: most main roads are better than ever, and investment in electricity generation – some of it from renewable sources – means that extended power cuts are a thing of the past.

But they do complain, of course. The two main national newspapers have been unremitting in their criticism, and Ortega’s running for a second consecutive term produced dire warnings of an imminent ‘dictatorship’. The social programmes and investment in infrastructure depend heavily on aid from other Latin American countries, especially Venezuela but also Cuba and Brazil. Ortega’s links with Hugo Chávez and Raúl Castro infuriate both Washington and Nicaragua’s US-oriented elite, but for most Nicaraguans they are a welcome alternative to dependency on US aid and the conditions that come with it. Nicaragua is the hemisphere’s second poorest country after Haiti. The anti-poverty programmes, combined with improved education and health services, and a growing economy, are seen as real achievements. It’s hardly surprising that people should vote for the party that has delivered them.


Nicaragua: Improvements in Social and Economic Well-Being and the Nov. 6 Elections

Written by Daniel McCurdy Monday, 14 November 2011 10:45

Last Sunday, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega was re-elected by a large margin. His party, the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), won an unprecedented majority in the National Assembly.  The major media, which are generally hostile to Ortega (and to most of the left governments in Latin America), mostly missed the main economic changes that might explain this result.  These include a significant reduction in poverty and inequality and a considerable increase in access to health care and education.

Given that the world economic downturn occurred right as Ortega’s government social and economic programs were taking effect, it is surprising that poverty decreased at the rate that it did during this period. The latest household survey, published in 2009 by the Nicaraguan National Institute of Information and Development (INIDE), showed that while poverty decreased by only 9 percent between 1993 and 2002 (an average annual improvement of 1% per year), this rate of improvement tripled after 2005, decreasing by 12 percent in the four-year period between 2005 and 2009 (an average annual improvement of about 3% per year).


There was an even more pronounced change in the levels of extreme poverty, which had declined at a slow pace between 1993 and 2002 and had risen alarmingly between 2002 and 2005. In the four years after 2005, extreme poverty witnessed an average annual decline of 4.0 percent, compared with a 4.4 average annual rate increase between 2002 and 2005.


Complimenting this reduction in poverty and inequality, health statistics from the World Health Organization, World Bank and the Nicaraguan Central Bank demonstrate a continuing improvement in overall quality and access to health care. While the rate of GDP growth actually diminished between 2006 and 2009, turning negative in 2009 during the world economic crisis and recession, government spending on health care increased during that period, as will be discussed below. As a result, an increasing number of Nicaraguans have had more access to doctors and medical treatment (Figure below).


Also in the last five years, there was significant progress in reducing infant and child mortality rates, despite the economic crisis and recession.  This progress was greater than in other, similarly situated lower-middle-income countries.[1]



Access to improved sanitation facilities increased at a faster pace between 2005 and 2008 (the last year for which data are available) than in prior years, despite the fact that Nicaragua’s economy did not grow as fast as in the previous years. These kinds of improvements required substantial investments in infrastructure.


Government spending on healthcare as a percent of GDP increased by more than 18 percent between 2006 and 2009, while it had only increased by 12 percent between 2000 and 2005, an even longer time period.

In addition to poverty reduction and improved health care, access to schooling and quality of education has also continued to expand. Government spending on education as a percent of GDP markedly increased from 2005 to 2009, again despite the fact that real GDP grew at a slower pace during this period (Figure below). Net enrollment in primary school has also continued to rise, albeit it experienced a small decrease in 2010 with the drop off in government spending on education.


Overall, since 2006 Nicaragua has experienced a significant decrease in poverty, coupled with increases both in access to health care and education. These economic and social improvements were achieved despite the world economic crisis that slowed growth in 2008 and pushed Nicaragua into recession in 2009. These gains probably played a significant role in the electoral success of Daniel Ortega and his political party.

[1] Average mortality ratios of all countries designated as Lower Middle Income countries by the World Bank, whose mortality rates have been at or below Nicaragua’s 1990 levels (infant mortality of 51.6 and child mortality of 68.0).  These rates are compared over a 20-year period: 1990-2010 for Nicaragua, and the 20 years after reaching an infant mortality of 51.6 or a child mortality of 68.0.