The Chamber of Deputies establishes whether there are grounds for impeachment of the president or cabinet ministers (205:15). No extraordinary majority is stipulated.
Well, that sounds easy.
But if you go look at the constitution as it apparently now stands, you see, in Article 205:
15. Derogado por Decreto 157/2003
So I can’t say what the procedure might be now, or what it might have been before the decree (about which see below). Perhaps after the president is impeached, he is tried by the Supreme Court. This is a procedure found in many Latin American constitutions.*
And then there is the question as to why, once the president was removed by the military, congress elected its own president to replace the President of the republic, when the constitution says:
ARTICULO 242.- En las ausencias temporales del Presidente de la República lo sustituirá en sus funciones el Vicepresidente. Si la falta del Presidente fuera absoluta, el Vicepresidente ejercerá la titularidad del Poder Ejecutivo por el tiempo que le falte para terminar el período constitucional. Pero si también faltare de modo absoluto el Vicepresidente de la República, el Poder Ejecutivo será ejercido por el Presidente del Congreso Nacional y, a falta de éste, por el Presidente de la Corte Suprema de Justicia, por el tiempo que faltare para terminar el período constitucional.
Unless the Vice Presidency was vacant [see below] the congress would appear to have committed an unconstitutional act by the way in which it has sought to fill the vacated presidential office–even leaving aside the constitutional status of the vacancy itself.
Micheletti era el sucesor constitucional natural de Zelaya, pues el vicepresidente Elvin Santos había renunciado para dedicarse a la campaña proselitista, ya que en las elecciones internas del año pasado fue consagrado candidato presidencial oficialista para los comicios generales de octubre próximo.
What a mess!
*Thanks to John Carey, in an e-mail, for inspiring this re-write. And to Steven Taylor, in a comment below, for noting that the decree in question is actually 175, and giving us a link where it can be found. From reading it, I still am not sure what the impeachment rules are, but it appears that the purpose of the change to the constitution is to remove privileges for the “political class,” which would imply that a president could be tried for constitutional violation even without a vote by a congressional majority. (But I am only interpreting here, with some uncertainty.)
Of course, ABC refers to him, in the very first sentence, as a “leftist” president, notwithstanding that he is from one of the oldest and most elitist parties in Latin America, the Liberal Party, which along with the National Party, makes up one of the last of the old traditional two-party systems. (In fact, with Paraguay and Colombia having seen the emergence of numerous newer parties in recent years, and Uruguay’s third force having elected its first president, I guess Honduras now has the last stodgy old two-party system in Latin America.)
Mr Zelaya fired Gen Romeo Vasquez after he refused to help with a referendum on constitutional change that could allow the president to seek a second term.
Both Congress and the courts have already deemed the planned referendum unlawful.
An initial referendum plebiscite* is set for this Sunday,
to ask Hondurans if they approve of holding a vote on unspecified constitutional change at the same time as the presidential election in November.
The story also notes that “hundreds of troops” have been deployed in Tegucigalpa, with the army saying they are there, in the BBC’s words, “to prevent disturbances by the president’s supporters.”
Zelaya, of the Liberal Party, was elected in a close election in November, 2005. He beat Porofirio Lobo of the National Party, 918,669 (49.9%) to 850,005 (46.2%).
The Liberal party has 62 of the 128 seats (48.4%) to the Nationals’ 55. Given that the BBC indicates that congress has declared Zelaya’s referendum unlawful, and the governing party is just a few seats short of a majority, I wonder if all the other parties voted against the president’s own unified party, or if the Liberals are split over the question of auto-succession. I hope someone can fill us in on details.
As for votes, the Georgetown database shows the vote for the two parties as 7,746,806 to 6,983,056. Why so many more legislative than presidential votes? Because Honduras used for the first time in 2005 a very unusual variant of open-list PR in which the voter may cast as many candidate-preference votes as the district’s magnitude (M, the seats elected in the district), which ranges from 2 to 23, and averages 8.8. I do not think the votes can be cast across lists of different parties (which leaves me wondering what is the point of having M preference votes**). I suppose we could get a rough approximation of party votes by dividing a party’s preference votes by 8.8, in which we would estimate around 880,000 for the Liberals and 793,500 for the Nationals. But that would be very rough. For the record, the Liberal total of preference votes is only 44.8% of the total votes cast, suggesting Zelaya’s coattails were limited. But that does not tell us the disposition of his party with respect to his reelection attempt.
Honduras has had a quite stable democracy since 1985 1981. But it does not look so stable right now.
Update: See what boz has to say, including, in the comments, a great quote from the president regarding his handpicked legislative leader, and in two (so far) posts at his blog. He calls one episode in this crisis “one of the more dramatic moments of Latin America politics I’ve seen in recent years.”
* I think a vote submitted unilaterally by the executive on a matter that would benefit the chief executive personally is properly termed a plebiscite, and not a referendum (which implies a legislative act that requires popular confirmation).
Update: a contact tells me that the president is calling it a “survey” and using the national statistical institute, rather than the electoral commission, to carry it out!
** I assume parties must be able to nominate many more than M candidates, or it would really make no sense. Even then, it hardly does, because any given party will win many fewer than M seats, except in the smallest districts. Ecuador also recently adopted a similar M-votes system, except that Ecuadorian voters may vote for candidates on different party lists. I would not even begin to try to explain the complex weighting rules employed for allocating seats to parties there.
Eighteen years after the end of a civil war viewed by leading 1980s US policy-makers as nothing more than another Soviet-US proxy war, the candidate of the former guerrilla movement, FMLN, has won El Salvador’s presidential election.
At latest check of La Prensa Grafica, the FMLN’s Mauricio Funes had 51.3% of the votes in the two-candidate race, with almost 91% of votes counted. So it was no landslide, but when I asked yesterday if reports of very high turnout (by Salvadoran standards) indicated a possible leftist landslide, I really should have asked if it indicated a “massive swing.” Given the polarization of the country, and the fact that the FMLN in January’s legislative elections had won its highest percentage ever–by far–at 42.8% of the vote, a landslide (which I would take roughly to mean 55% or more in a 2-way race) was never realistic.
It was, however, a massive swing. The FMLN had managed less than a third of the vote in the one two-candidate presidential race it previously participated in, the 1994 runoff. In both 1999 and 2004 the ARENA candidate had won a first-round majority with the FMLN managing only 29% and 36%, respectively.
I will admit to some surprise that, with turnout rising so much, ARENA could still manage to come so close to half the votes. That is a good sign: both major parties were able to mobilize new voters, and to break their near-complete dependence on the wartime polarization. It is hard to exaggerate how important this election outcome is for Central American history and for post-civil-war democracies more generally. It marks the first real alternation in power in El Salvador’s history (not to trivialize the Christian Democratic presidential victory of 1984, but that happened under decidedly ‘special’ circumstances of US sponsorship).
Now comes the hard part: governing. This election gives the Salvadoran left a chance, but dealing with the divided assembly will not be easy for Funes. In January’s election, the FMLN won 35 seats, placing it 8 seats shy of a majority in the single chamber. The remnant of the Christian Democratic Party (PDC) has only 5 seats and a small centrist party 1.
There is simply no way that Funes can craft majorities for any proposed statutory changes without votes of the smaller right-wing party, the PCN, which has 11 seats. There is rich irony in that, as the PCN was the party of the governing landlord-military alliance against which the FMLN’s precursor organizations initially rebelled. The PCN has normally been an ally in congress of ARENA, although the PCN has on occasion joined with the FMLN. One prominent item of cooperation I recall from some years ago was on a proposal to forgive agrarian debt. That measure passed with the support of the FMLN, PDC, and PCN. It was vetoed by the president, and because it takes a two thirds vote to override a presidential veto and because ARENA held exactly one third of the seats, plus one, at the time, the bill died. The FMLN will need to work with the PCN again, and I expect the latter to be willing to bargain in order to preserve its place in a party system whose balance is now titled against it.
The presidency of El Salvador is by no means one of the strongest constitutionally in Latin America, but it is far from weak. It would be nearly impossible for the ARENA and PCN to legislate over the head of the executive, even if the PCN wanted to try, and despite these parties holding a joint majority of seats. The presidential veto would prevent it, and the FMLN has enough seats to sustain vetoes. More importantly, when the president of El Salvador vetoes a bill, he has the right to amend it. Stronger than a “line-item” veto, this veto permits the president to act as if he were a unipersonal revisory legislative chamber. By crafting an alternative bill to present to the Legislative Assembly after rejecting their proposal, he can bring the outcome far closer to his own preferences than if his veto strictly amounted to a choice between the status quo and the proposal passed by the legislature (as with the “package” veto of the US president).
The legislative balance of party forces, the PCN’s need to distinguish itself from ARENA now that the latter lacks control of the executive, and the constitutional powers of the presidency all give the FMLN a real opportunity to compromise with other political forces for the benefit of the Salvadoran populace.
The Cold War is over at last. The Salvadoran people have won.
In the 1980s, El Salvador’s “Pol Pot Left” was an obsession with America’s far right, which was at the time well represented in the halls of power. The governing US Republican party made stopping the allegedly imminent threat of a Soviet-Castroite takeover of Central America–with El Salvador next, after Nicaragua, on the “hit list”–one of its highest priorities. And that meant stopping the Farbundo Marti Front for National Liberation, or FMLN, from seizing power by force of arms and popular insurrection. It also meant not negotiating with it until it would “lay down its arms” and participate in elections. The very real and grinding inequality of land ownership, against which the FMLN was fighting, was de-emphasized (although there was a small land reform undertaken with US support in the 1980s).
The ideological affinity between the far right in the US and El Salvador was so strong that the latter even named its emerging movement the Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA), as it turned its original death-squad structure into an essentially fascist (and I do not toss that term around lightly) political party.
Now here we are in 2009, with the far right (mostly stripped of its fascist baggage but not of its economic ideology) having governed El Salvador for twenty years. The FMLN laid down its weapons in the 1990s, during the G.H.W. Bush presidency, and has been participating in El Salvador’s elections since 1994. Its candidate in today’s presidential election is not tainted by the war and does not advocate radical economic reform. In other words, El Salvador’s left has done precisely what it was told to do by Uncle Sam. The Soviet Union is a distant memory and Fidel Castro is barely hanging on in a country whose government no one considers a model. Yet here we are, 15 years into El Salvador’s post-war democracy, and certain far-right dead-enders in the US Congress just can’t get over the fact that the FMLN might actually win an election.
Sometimes it is at least useful when the real extremists reveal themselves.
On Sunday voters in El Salvador will elect their next president. As discussed here previously, I still think the leftist candidate, Mauricio Funes, will win, ending 20 years of rule by the right-wing ARENA party and marking the first presidential victory by the former guerrilla FMLN. But it could be close, and one can’t ever rule out a surprise.
The reason there surely will not be a runoff is that the candidates of the other parties withdrew from the race after the legislative election. So, in essence, the legislative election functioned as the de-facto first round of the presidential election. The elections for legislature confirmed what surely everyone knew: that the FMLN and ARENA were by far the two dominant parties. More importantly, they perhaps showed the small left party, the CD, that it had better get out of the way and the vaguely centrist but mostly right-wing PCN and PDC that it might be possible to defeat Funes, after all. While a majority of votes would be required, whether in one round or two, the “momentum” factor of a strong plurality by either major candidate might have been something the other bloc wanted to avoid. Better to go for the one-round victory, when there is no question about who will contend for the second slot in the runoff (as there often is in two-round contests).
In any case, a legislative election within a few months of a presidential election is expected to function as a field-winnower. At least that is what I have long claimed about these “counterhoneymoon” elections. Nice to see theory confirmed by data–or, in this case, datum!*
POLL NUMBERS!!! Salvador election close, or not (boz)
UPDATE: See the comments by Manuel for important detail and alternative scenarios!
The results of the Salvadoran legislative (and municipal and the Central American Parliament) elections are now posted at the site of the Tribunal Supremo Electoral.
The seats in the assembly are as noted earlier:
There is also a votes summary that can be downloaded (under “Otros Reportes” strangely enough, as if it’s an afterthought). As far as I can tell there is no posted national summary of votes. If one wanted to add up all the departmental votes one could confirm the final vote total for the FMLN (last reported at around 43%) and other parties. But this one does not want to.
The departmental summary is interesting, however, in that it gives the full allocation process, showing the quota, seats by quota, remainder, and seats by remainder. Once again, the PCN lives a charmed life, winning one seat in each of 11 departments, always on a remainder. The large parties use up most of their votes on quotas, leaving the PCN to win a seat even in a 3-seat district like Chalatenango where it had only 11.4% of the vote.
While the FMLN is probably not happy with its showing, it is worth remembering that if it indeed won 43% of the vote, that’s the highest total a party has obtained in any of the last five legislative elections. The only higher share since the FMLN began participating was in its first election, 1994, when ARENA scored 45% (in the election that was concurrent with the presidential election). It would also be the FMLN’s own highest total ever, by around 3 percentage points.
Beware the misleading presentation of preliminary results!
Yesterday I noted that the FMLN appeared to have won only 44% of seats on nearly 50% of the votes. I based this on the web page captured above. From the first few lines of the report–Departamento: TOTALES NACIONALES and Municipio: REPUBLICA DE EL SALVADOR–one might conclude that the page was reporting national results. Not so fast!
If one looks at the line at the bottom (which obviously I did not) one might note that the TOTAL VOTOS VALIDOS are far short of the national total reported at the top. Indeed, the votes totals by party listed here are San Salvador only.
I take small–very small–comfort from knowing that others made the same error I did. Various news accounts had said the FMLN had won about half the vote nationally, and so did a blog I often read and consider reliable.
I thank Heather B. for pointing this out. Evidently the FMLN actually has around 43% of the national votes.
Heather also informs me that a contact says the seats totals are different from previous reports:
Partido de Conciliación Nacional 11
Partido Demócrata Cristiano 5
Cambio Democrático 1
If these various numbers are correct, the FMLN is still under-represented (which was the main theme of yesterday’s report here) and, in terms of seats won, the party has been harmed even more by the nonconcurrent elections (a theme I wrote about on Sunday), given that the FMLN presidential candidate is still expected to approach or exceed 50% in the March election. But the FMLN did not do as well in votes, or wind up as seriously under-represented, in Sunday’s election as I previously believed.
(Even a Salvadoran newspaper had the preliminary seat totals of the PCN way off, reporting 4. If it won 11, it would be more in keeping with its usual totals, and would certainly continue its tendency to be over-represented by the simple-quota, largest-remainders system.)
These revised numbers would also mean a significant change in the political calculus for an eventual FMLN presidency. No longer would the PDC have enough votes in congress to get the FMLN over half the seats, if it chose to bargain with the president and his party. The FMLN will need the PCN, which would be interesting: this is the party that has its roots in the rural support network of the old pre-1979 regime that the FMLN organized to overthrow (and that the PDC probably defeated electorally at the head of a center-left coalition in 1972). The PCN has worked in the legislature with the FMLN before–for instance, on as agrarian-debt relief bill that passed, but was vetoed by the ARENA president. So they presumably can work together again. (I think a broad right-wing opposition majority coalition and thus divided government, assuming the FMLN indeed has the presidency, would be very unlikely.)
I still am unable to get the electoral commission website to load.
I have uprooted yesterday’s planting. I will re-plant an analysis of votes-seats relationships once results are more clear.
Two noteworthy legislative elections are being held today, in El Salvador and the German state of Hesse. Both are of interest not only for what will happen today, but also for what they signal about upcoming elections.
Today Salvadorans go to the polls to elect the 84-seat Legislative Assembly and municipal posts throughout the country. The main thing to watch will be, how big are the gains for the FMLN (the ex-guerrilla leftist political party)? The party currently holds 32 seats (38%), and as I noted at the time of the last legislative elections, the country’s electoral politics has been in stasis since the negotiated end of the civil war in 1994. Will this be the election that breaks the stasis? Maybe, but there is a major caveat.
The last legislative election, in 2006, was held in the month of March. In fact, every legislative election back to 1952 has been held in March (except in 1960, when they waited till April). For that matter, every presidential election under the current constitution (1983) has been held in March (with a runoff in April or May, when needed). So why are Salvadorans going to the polls in January?
Presidential terms are five years and legislative terms three years, and so they will occur in the same year every 15 years. The last time elections to the two branches occurred in the same year–math whizzes will have recognized already that that was in 1994–they were on the same day in March. And therein lay a problem for the Salvadoran right.
The FMLN has been leading the polls in advance of this year’s presidential race for many months. To ward off a possible coattail effect, the center-right parties that control the legislature and presidency de-coupled the elections. So instead of a concurrent contest, El Salvador will have what I refer to as a “counter-honeymoon election” today. A legislative election shortly before a presidential election provides voters and party leaders with information, as CNN says in the opening paragraph of its news story on the elections:
El Salvador will elect more than 340 local and congressional officials Sunday, two months before the nation’s presidential election. But Sunday’s results could go a long way toward determining who that next president will be.
Well, actually, I think we already know–barring surprises–and as I suggested above, that’s precisely why these elections are today. But the general point is that these elections will either show the left as being more vulnerable than opinion polls and pundits suggest, or they will show the right what options it has to turn the tide by March.
It would be a surprise if the FMLN won a majority of seats today. It just might have had a shot at a majority (or close to it) had the legislative elections been left concurrent with the presidential race. But I would regard anything short of 39 seats for the FMLN as a victory for the right. Why 39? Because that is the highest seat total any party has won since the FMLN began competing in elections. More importantly, 39 was the total won by the long-ruling ARENA in 1994–in a concurrent election in which the ARENA presidential candidate won easily (49-25% in the first round, 68-32 in the runoff). That sort of presidential “pull” is exactly what ARENA wanted to prevent the FMLN from getting this time around.
The results of this election are already in, and the Christian Democratic Union (the party of federal PM Angela Merkel) has won “handily.” DW reports:
Near-complete returns show Merkel’s CDU, lead by Roland Koch, narrowly increasing their share of the vote to around 38 percent. The SPD suffered dramatic losses, slumping more than 13 percent to a historic low of just over 23 percent. Among the smaller parties, the liberal Free Democrats took 16 percent of the vote, their best result in Hesse in more than 50 years. The Greens had 14 and the Left Party five percent respectively. The CDU says it now hopes to form a coalition government with the FDP. Voter turnout was low at just 60 percent.
This election is of greater interest than a state election normally would be for two reasons. First, federal elections are due later this year, and this is one of the last states to be voting before the national electorate will go to the polls.1 With both the CDU (accompanied by its Bavarian partner, the Christian Social Union) and its partner in the federal “grand coalition,” the Social Democrats (SPD), less than eager to continue the current arrangement, this state result is a potential bellwether.
The second item of interest in this election is that the state had been to the polls just under a year ago. In the 2008 election, the CDU and SPD each had won 42 seats (out of 110) and the Left (based on a union of ex-communists with leftist who had split from the SPD) had a breakthrough, winning 6 seats. The Greens had 9 and the FDP 11. This result meant no majority for either a center-left or a center-right coalition unless the center-left coalition included the Left party.
Following the 2008 election, coalition bargaining took some time and ultimately produced a formula in which the SPD and Greens would govern with the outside support of the Left. Never mind that the SPD leader, Andrea Ypsilanti, had explictly promised in her campaign not to work with the Left. It was the only possible majority unless the Greens, CDU and FDP would work together (which was also discussed, but failed). And then the SPD caucus vetoed Ypsilanti’s plan. That display of unwillingness of the SPD to set the precedent, in the old West Germany, of cooperation with the Left set the stage for this re-run (with a new SPD leader).2
The CDU has to feel pretty good about its chances in the federal elections after waiting out the center-left divisions in Hesse.
1. There will also be elections in Brandenburg, Saarland, Saxony, and Thuringia on 30 August. Federal parliamentary elections will be 27 September.
2. This summary is based primarily on my recollections of coverage over several months at DW-TV’s Journal. See also the brief summary from AFP.
Leonel Fernandez won an absolute one-round majority in this weekend’s presidential election in the Dominican Republic. He has now won three of the last four elections. The one in that sequence that he lost did not win was the one in which he was barred from running.
The DR has changed its constitutional provision on presidential reelection more times than I can keep up with. From 1966 (the first election after the US invasion of the previous year) through 1974, Joaquin Balaguer was reelected to second and third consecutive terms. After being defeated a couple of times, Balaguer came back and won three more elections, now aided immensely by the emergence of a three-party system (and the fact that a plurality sufficed in those days to elect the president).
After Balaguer’s narrow and dubious victory in 1994, the constitution was changed to disallow consecutive reelection and to have a new presidential election after just two years. It was that election, in 1996, in which Fernandez won his first term. 1996 was also the first election by two-round majority, which aided Fernandez greatly. He came in a rather distant second in the first round (45.9 to 38.9).
Fernandez then defeated an incumbent president in 20041–the constitution having been changed after the old caudillo definitively could not run again, having died in 2002. Fernandez won by absolute majority in 2002 (57.1%, compared to about 53% in this most recent election).
Fernandez’s party is the Dominican Liberation Party. The party is noteworthy in having been the third party that emerged in the late 1970s to give the DR its era of three-party politics. The party was founded by Juan Bosch, who, as the leader of the Dominican Revolutionary Party, had been Balaguer’s rival all the way back to the 1960s.2 In 1990, Bosch almost managed to win the presidency back, losing to Balaguer–who else?!–35.5% to 33.8%.
This history brings up the inevitable question: Can the DR ever get past this dominance of caudillo politics? The PLD has now held the presidency three times, each under the same man, Fernandez. Bosch had previously been its candidate in all five election from 1978 through 1990, when it steadily grew from 1% of the vote to about a third at that 1990 peak. Since Fernandez became its leader (and president, after the 1996 runoff), the party is averaging about half the vote when he is its candidate, but managed only 24.9% when he could not run as its standard-bearer in 2000. It not clear anymore just what the PLD seeks to “liberate” its country from, but it is clear that–barring the unlikely change of the constitution to permit three consecutive terms–it will have to run again in four years free of Fernandez as its candidate. That will be a test of its institutionalization, as, perhaps, will be the 2010 midterm congressional election.
One of the constitutional innovations following the 1994 election dispute was the creation of what is, as far as I know, the world’s only all-midterm electoral cycle. Starting in 1996, presidential and congressional elections have each occurred every two years, for four year terms. In the last midterm election, during Fernandez’s second term, the PLD gained quite dramatically–not the usual occurrence in a midterm election. Normally, we expect an incumbent president’s party to suffer some electoral setback in a midterm election, and that certainly was the case in the first such election in the DR, in 1998. In that year, Fernandez’s party actually did gain a bit, but that was off a 16% showing from the last concurrent election (1994). The more important impact was that the opposition PRD won a majority in the Chamber of Deputies.3 In 2002, Fernandez’s party–by then in opposition–gained (but was still under 30% of votes) and the then-governing PRD lost its majority (though retained a plurality).4 Thus, two of the three midterms since the DR adopted this cycle have been consistent with the expectation of decline for the governing party. Stay tuned for 2010, when the country will have a midterm leading up to the open-seat presidential election of 2012.
And, if you want the perspective of someone who can actually talk about the politics behind Fernandez’s winning a third term, by all means turn to boz.
That was one of only a handful of cases in Latin American history of a sitting president defeated in a reelection bid. Besides the one previous DR example, when Balaguer was defeated in 1978, the only other case that comes to mind is Daniel Ortegaâ€™s loss in the 1990 Nicaraguan election. [↩]
In 1966, Balaguer defeated Bosch, who had briefly served as president, having won the 1962 election before being overthrown in a military coup. It was a counter-coup to restore the legitimately elected Bosch that prompted the US invasion, allegedly to prevent “another Cuba,” though one would have to look really, really hard to see any parallels. [↩]
The vote for the national party list (which elects about 20% of the seats in congress) looks a bit different. I thought this vote was fused with that for president (and I believe it once was), but evidently not. For this vote, the UNE won 22.9%, GANA 16.4%, PP 16%, and twelve other parties won between 0.9% and 9.9% each.
Results from the TSE, and they are refreshed regularly, so what is shown above may change a bit.
There are also pages of the results by department, but I do not see an aggregation of the departmental-district votes for congress. (There is a districted PR system for most of the seats in the unicameral congress.) In any event, whoever wins the presidential runoff is going to face a very fragmented congress.
Rigoberta MenchÃº won 3.1% of the presidential vote (seventh place); her Encuentro Guatemala ticket doubled that in the congressional national-list vote.
As I have noted on numerous occasions, party naming is something of a lost art, though GANA, which stands for Gran Alianza Nacional, is pretty good. As an acronym at least, if not as a guide to what the party might stand for. [↩]
Today was the 28th–yes, twenty eighth (time flies!)–anniversary of the seizure of power by the Sandinista Front for National Liberation (FSLN) in Nicaragua’s revolution after some clashes with the brutal Somoza dictatorship.
The photo above is from a demonstration in central Managua leading up to the tenth anniversary celebration. I was there in June, 1989, as part of a pre-electoral observation project. Of course, less than a year later, the FSLN would be voted out of power.*
And today, the FSLN celebrated its first Revolution Day back in power, its leader from the 1970s and 1980s, Daniel Ortega, having been voted back in as President (thanks, in part, to some crafty institutional engineering) in late 2006.
* I still have posted in my UCSD office a newspaper cartoon from 1990 that depicted a disheveled little Daniel Ortega arriving on the Cuban shore on a rickety raft and a big burly Fidel Castro hovering over him and saying “You lost a what??“
Updated results, including congressional votes, below.
With the one-round victory of Daniel Ortega in the Nicaraguan presidential election now confirmed, I though it was interesting to consider just how stable his support has been across the last four elections:
Of course, 1990 was the year in which Ortega was the incumbent president, and was defeated. He was defeated again in 1996 and 2001. But in 2006, a share of the vote lower than in 2001 and barely more than in 1996 was good enough. Of course, the difference was that the right-wing forces were almost completely unified in 1990, and quite well unified again in 1996 and 2001, but deeply divided in 2006.
Some years ago, recognizing their internal problems, the right insisted, as part of its series of pacts with Ortega and his Sandinista movement, on abandoning the pure plurality method of electing presidents that was in the Sandinistas’ 1987 constitution. The first change was to require 45% of the vote, or else a runoff. Then in a later pact, Ortega insisted on changing it to 40%, or 35% with a five-point margin. Shrewd move. He failed in this election to reach 40%, but with the divisions on the right, he had much more than a five-point margin.
The full results, according to the Nicaraguan electoral council:
Jarquin was the candidate of the so-called Movement for Sandinista Renovation, which had attracted various dissidents from Ortega’s increasingly personalistic and authoritarian Sandinista movement, but hardly any of its organizational prowess. Pastora is the famous Comandante Zero, the one-time popular Sandinista guerrilla. The Rizo campaign, according to various rumors, was actually cooperating with and assisted by Ortega. The rumors are plausible, given that Ortega obviously needed the right to be divided, and the right–like the Sandinista movement itself–has degenerated more into personalistic divisions than programmatic principle. Given Nicaragua’s closed list system for electing congress, both the PLC and the PCN caudillos will control substantial congressional delegations, able to check Ortega. I have not yet seen congressional results. It will be interesting to see if Rizo’s congressional lists outpolled Rizo himself. Given the usual tendency of Nicaraguan voters to vote straight tickets, any significant divergence would add more evidence to the rumors of Ortega-Rizo cooperation.
There was very little ticket-splitting, apparently. According to resuults at the Elecciones 2006 website of the Consejo Supremo Electoral, the votes percentages for the parties are barely different for congress from what they were for the presidential candidates. The +/- figure indicates the change from the presidential percentage, as reported above:
Apparently, some voters favored the MRS for congress but voted strategically in the presidential race. However, their votes do not appear to have gone overwhelmingly for one candidate. It does appear that around half of the MRS congressional votes that did not go to Jarquin for president might have gone for presidential runner-up Montealegre, as we might predict, but it was not close to enough to force a runoff. Even if all the difference between the MRS congressional and presidential vote had gone to Montealagre, Ortega would have won by a margin of 7.7 percentage points.
[Note: The above has been revised. Thanks to Tim for catching a significant error!]
If by my laws you walk, and my commands you keep, and observe them,
then I will give-forth your rains in their set-time,
so that the earth gives-forth its yield
and the trees of the field give-forth their fruit.
--Vayikra 26: 3-4