Media Center

Press Release


  November 22, 2006

The Organization of American States (OAS) today reaffirmed its conclusion that the presidential elections held in Nicaragua on November 5 were peaceful, orderly, inclusive and in keeping with the law, and saw a large voter turnout. The elections “marked a step forward toward democracy, at its own pace and in its own style,” said the Chief of the OAS Electoral Observation Mission, the former Bolivian Foreign Minister Gustavo Fernández Saavedra.

In his preliminary report to an OAS Permanent Council meeting—chaired by Trinidad and Tobago’s Ambassador Marina Valere—Fernández Saavedra explained that the recent elections also “consolidated the Nicaraguan democratic system as regards the exercise of political rights.” Describing Nicaraguan elections as “increasingly clean and competitive,” he hailed voters’ high level of participation and peaceful conduct, and praised the conduct of the country’s political parties. He said Nicaraguans have resorted to the ballot box to settle their differences, and the political players respected their will. Fernández reported a 69% voter turnout.

The OAS Electoral Observation Mission in Nicaragua, which was “lengthy, complex and extensive,” monitored the technical, legal and political preparations for the election, Fernández said, noting that the Mission “adhered to the principles of impartiality, objectivity, independence, and full respect for Nicaragua’s law and institutions, with the understanding that its job was to observe and not to be referee or judge.”

Fernández cautioned that the evaluation of an electoral system must take into account the historical context of each country and noted that efforts to strengthen democracy in Nicaragua are moving in the right direction. He noted, however, a number of areas in which legal and institutional changes are needed.

Among other recommendations, the Chief of Mission pointed to the need for a new institutional structure for the electoral authority. He also referred to the need to examine the Electoral Law and its regulations, as well as procedures related to the voter identification system, including its decentralization and financing. A more in-depth package of recommendations will be submitted in the Mission’s final report.

Fernández noted that the Mission’s 183 observers were deployed to cover 129 polling stations, covering 153 municipalities in the 15 departments and two autonomous regions in which Nicaragua is divided. He reported as well that there are still technical personnel from the OAS Mission who will remain in Nicaragua to do follow-up related to electoral challenges; these will not affect the prevailing results, he said.

Following the presentation by Fernández, the member state ambassadors hailed the conduct of the Nicaraguan elections and expressed their appreciation for the report. By acclamation, they adopted a declaration congratulating “the people of Nicaragua, their government headed by Enrique Bolaños Geyer, and the other officials,” as well as President-elect Daniel Ortega. The declaration was an initiative of the Central American Group: Belize, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama.

During the same session, the Permanent Council also hear a report on the OAS electoral observation in Bolivia, related to that country’s July 2 elections for its Constituent Assembly and a National Binding Referendum. The Chief of Mission and former Permanent Representative of Colombia to the OAS, Ambassador Horacio Serpa, underscored the massive, peaceful participation of the Bolivian people, the conduct of the country’s political parties and the professionalism of the National Electoral Court during a process he said demonstrated the “great maturity” of the democratic system. Recognizing that any electoral process can be improved, Serpa said the OAS report includes recommendations and observations on such issues as political advertising, procedures to review voter rolls, and transportation restrictions in effect on election days.

In thanking Ambassador Serpa for his report, Bolivia’s Interim Representative to the OAS, Patricia Bozo de Durán, noted the importance these elections held for her country. “We believe the OAS has a very important role in the strengthening of democracy in our hemisphere,” she said.

Reference: E-251/06