United building consensus on electoral reforms

This joint presentation of proposed Constitutional and Electoral Reforms was motivated, among other things, by a desire to: re-establish the independence, transparency and trust in the electoral system in order to hold timely free, fair, transparent and observed elections; facilitate a democratic, constitutional and peaceful negotiated solution to the socio-political crisis through broad and inclusive consensus; enable a transition to democracy for the re-establishment of the rule of law and democratic institutionality; promote active citizens’ participation in electoral processes; and enable the recovery of citizens’ voting power. This proposal was the result of a three-way consensus reached by the Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy, the Blue and White Unity and the Pro-Electoral Reform Group during the forum “United building consensus on electoral reforms.”

The proposal includes changes to the country’s Political Constitution with regard to electoral matters, including the possibility of civil society nominating candidates for Supreme Electoral Council (CSE) magistrates, non-re-election for the post of President, prohibiting the spouse of an outgoing President from running for that post, re-establishing the “50% + 1” threshold for presidential election and a second round if that threshold is not reached, re-establishing independent candidacies, eliminating the legal standard prohibiting defection from one party to another, and guaranteeing the right of released political prisoners and exiles to participate as candidates for elected office.

In terms of reforms to the Electoral Law, we are proposing six priority areas that will allow Nicaragua to elect with confidence, independence and transparency: re-establishing trust in the electoral system; re-establishing transparency and electoral guarantees; opening up broad, comprehensive, plural and equitable electoral competition; mechanisms for citizens’ participation; the electoral and normative reform of the electoral branch; and the new legal configuration of elected posts.

This implies the following, among other things: removing political party influence from the electoral and administrative structures (CEDs, CERs, CEMs); new mechanisms for naming the vote reception boards (JRVs) and electoral police; obligatory electoral observation; national-level dissemination of results on the CSE website detailed by JRV; publication of all tally sheets on the CSE website; separate voting papers for each kind of election (President, departmental representatives, PARLACEN, mayor and councilmen/women); timely monitoring by political parties with no exclusions; and cleansing, updating and auditing of the electoral roll.

The following are also contemplated: relaxing the requirements for new political forces to obtain legal status and present candidates; implementing obligatory voting abroad in the next elections; and relaxing the rules for electoral alliances so they can choose which position to occupy on the ballot paper and select their name, flag and legal representative.

Other proposed electoral reforms include eliminating the National Assembly seats automatically awarded to the outgoing President and the second-placed presidential candidate; removing party influence from the process for issuing voter identification cards and establishing punishments for those responsible for irregularities; and establishing the possibility of mid-term recall referendums for the President and Vice President.

These reforms will facilitate the country’s economic and social recovery process, strengthen the international community’s support and channel the Nicaraguan population’s demand for a clean, transparent and observed process.

If these reforms are implemented, it is imperative to re-establish citizens’ rights and guarantees and to release all political prisoners (compliance with the agreements of March 27 and 29, 2019).

It would not have been possible to achieve the results presented here without the decided and committed support of the Pro-Electoral Reform Group, made up of a team of experts of the highest technical and legal level. These experts facilitated consensus to produce a unified proposal of electoral reforms that includes inputs from students, political parties and emerging groups that have been active since April 2018.

We reiterate our commitment to Nicaragua, which can only be possible by joining forces and laying aside interests. This is Nicaragua’s moment, which is why we are presenting this joint proposal as the first step in the process of negotiating the only possible way out of the crisis: a civic and peaceful solution.

Together we are a volcano and today we are demonstrating just that. Nicaragua’s reconstruction has begun and nobody can stop it.

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