Institutionalization of the Revolution, 1984

Nicaragua Table of Contents

Discussion over the date and procedures for the first national postrevolutionary election began almost immediately after the revolution. The Fundamental Statue of the Republic of Nicaragua gave the junta the authority to call for elections "whenever the conditions of national reconstruction might permit." In 1983 the Council of State passed an amended Political Parties Law that, among other things, defined a political party as a group "vying for power" (the original version proposed by the FSLN defined a political party as a group already "participating in public administration"). Amendments to the law also promised all parties full access to the media.

In mid-1984, the Electoral Law was passed setting the date and conditions for the election. As was the case with the Political Parties Law, much debate went into the law's drafting. The opposition parties favored the election of a two-year interim president and a six-year legislature that would draft a new constitution. The junta, citing foreign pressure to hold elections early and the added cost of two elections in two years, prevailed with its proposal to simultaneously elect the president and members of the new legislature for six-year terms. The opposition preferred a 1985 date for elections to give it time to prepare its campaign, but the FSLN set the election for November 4, 1984 and the inauguration for January 10, 1985. The law set the voting age at sixteen, which the opposition complained was an attempt to capitalize on the FSLN's popularity with the young. The number of National Assembly seats would vary with each election--ninety seats to be apportioned among each party according to their share of the vote and an additional seat for each losing presidential candidate. The entire electoral process would be the responsibility of a new fourth branch of government, the Supreme Electoral Council. Parties that failed to participate in the election would lose their legal status.

By July 1984, eight parties or coalitions had announced their intention to field candidates: the FSLN with Daniel Ortega as presidential candidate; the Democratic Coordinator (Coordinadora Democrática--CD), a broad coalition of labor unions, business groups, and four centrist parties; and six other parties--the PLI, the PPSC, the Democratic Conservative Party (Partido Conservador Demócratica--PCD), the communists, the socialists, and the Marxist-Leninist Popular Action Movement. Claiming that the Sandinistas were manipulating the electoral process, the CD refused to formally file its candidates and urged Nicaraguans to boycott the election. In October, Virgilio Godoy Reyes of the PLI also withdrew his candidacy, although most of the other candidates for the National Assembly and the PLI's vice presidential candidate remained on the ballot. Other parties reportedly were pressured to withdraw from the election also.

On November 4 1984, about 75 percent of the registered voters went to the polls. The FSLN won 67 percent of the votes, the presidency, and sixty-one of the ninety-six seats in the new National Assembly. The three conservative parties that remained in the election garnered twenty-nine seats in the National Assembly; the three parties on the left won a total of six seats. Foreign observers generally reported that the election was fair. Opposition groups, however, said that the FSLN domination of government organs, mass organizations groups, and much of the media created a climate of intimidation that precluded a truly open election. Inauguration came on January 10, 1985; the date was selected because it was the seventh anniversary of the assassination of newspaper editor Chamorro. Attending Ortega's swearing in as president were the presidents of Yugoslavia and Cuba, the vice presidents of Argentina and the Soviet Union, and four foreign ministers from Latin America.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress