Nicaragua: Pre-Election Technical Assessment (May 15 - June 4, 1993)

Publication Date: 
30 Jun 1993

Publication Type:



A three-member team from the International Foundation for Electoral Systems conducted an on-site pre-technical assessment of the Nicaraguan electoral system from May 15 to June 4, 1993 at the request of USAID/Managua. Team members met with electoral authorities, members of the government, political parties, regional and local authorities, and private citizens.

The Supreme Electoral Council (Consejo Supremo Electoral) [CSE] is the highest electoral authority, has jurisdiction over all electoral matters, and serves as the highest level of appeal for complaints and challenges to the electoral system. Subordinate to the CSE are nine regional Electoral Councils (Consejos Electorales Regionales) [CER], and over 4,000 local Ballot Receiving Boards (Juntas Receptoras de Votos) [JRV].

The passage of the Citizen Identification Law (Ley de Identificaci6n Ciudadana) in March of this year has set in motion a series of projects that are large, complex, and expensive. The CSE is attempting to create a computerized national civil registry, provide a credential (cedula) to every citizen that will serve not only as identification for civil, commercial, and public activities but also constitute the only form of identification accepted for voting purposes (voters card). The CSE is also planning to develop a permanent voters list to replace the ad hoc voters list that has been used in the past and accounted for 70 % of expenditures in previous elections. The most critical problem that the team found in relation to the process of cedulaci6n, aside from lack of resources, is that Nicaraguans, generally speaking, are not accustomed to registering either their births or their deaths. One important reason is that municipal authorities charge prohibitively high fees that discourage the registration of vital statistics. Without births being registered, a national civil registry will not accurately reflect the true size of the population. Without deaths being registered, voters' names will remain on the list indefinitely and the cedulas that remain in circulation might be used fraudulently.

A two million dollar donation from Spain including computers, ID card production equipment, and supplies such as security paper and laminate have allowed the process to begin, but the donation is insufficient to complete the process. The team was told that all resources are currently being directed towards completing the project in the Atlantic Regions before the elections are held in 1994. However, there are few financial resources and no detailed budget or planning documents for the period following the current effort in the Atlantic Regions. This has several consequences. The CSE is forced to implement the process in piece-meal fashion as donations are solicited and received rather than as a nation-wide campaign. If the donations are less or different than originally hoped for, the process is modified to accommodate the donations rather than the donations helping to complete the process as originally envisioned. The lack of long-range plans also makes coordinating international assistance very difficult as there is no master plan around which various international assistance efforts can be coordinated.

The team recommends that a group of Latin American electoral experts be assembled to assist the CSE in developing a budget and long-range plans for the period from now until the elections. With these planning documents developed, effective coordination among the interested international donors could be arranged. To address the legal reform issues, the team recommends assembling a group of Nicaraguan jurists and an outside election expert to study the reforms based upon the parameters indicated in this report. The study and proposals should be published as a pamphlet that analyzes the problems, presents solutions, and makes people aware of the need to solve these problems. The pamphlet could also be the focus of discussion involving politicians, members of the National Assembly, jurists, representatives of civic organizations, editorialists, and journalists.

Other recommendations include a discussion of commodity needs, eliminating the vote recount by the CER, changing Municipal Law or persuading municipalities to lower charges for registration of vital statistics, a nation-wide civic education campaign to make people aware of. the cedulaci6n effort and the importance of registering vital statistics, poll worker and poll watcher training, voter education, support for international observer missions, and changing the Electoral Law so that parties would be required to meet meaningful requirements for popular support in order to gain and maintain official recognition from the Consejo de Partidos Politicos.

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