NICARAGUA
Parliamentary Chamber: Asamblea Nacional

ELECTIONS HELD IN 1996

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Chamber:
  Asamblea Nacional


Dates of elections / renewal (from/to):

  20 October 1996


Purpose of elections:

  Elections were held for all the seats in Parliament as scheduled by the Electoral Law adopted on 5 December 1995. General elections had previously been held in February 1990.


Background and outcome of elections:

  The date of the parliamentary elections was set in December 1995. They were combined with polling for President of the Republic - an open race since Mrs. Violeta Barrios de Chamorro was constitutionally barred from seeking re-election to the post she had won in February 1990.

While there were altogether 21 candidates for the presidency, the two contestants given a realistic chance by pollsters were Mr. Arnoldo Aleman Lacayo, a former mayor of the capital Managua and leader of the Liberal Alliance, and Mr. Daniel Ortega Saavedra, President from 1979 to 1990 and running under the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) banner; Mr. Ortega characterised himself as a social democrat in favour of a free-market economy and "a government for everyone". Mr. Aleman, a conservative, called for a departure from the authoritarian and inefficient rule of the Sandinistas and criticised both them and the Chamorro administration for the country's serious economic problems. The continuing decline in this sector (marked especially by high unemployment) and the slow pace of recovery from the damage done by the 1980s civil war, were also seen as helping Mr. Ortega 's strong comeback in pre-election polls, since he had lost out to Mrs. Chamorro six years earlier. A key issue involved the confiscations of real property during the Sandinista rule. While Mr. Aleman viewed the confiscations as thefts, the Sandinistas defended them as legitimate redistribution of wealth from the dictatorial regime of Mr. Anastasio Somoza they fought against.

Election day - monitored by thousands of international observers including former US President Jimmy Carter - was extended by several hours to allow for complete distribution of voting materials to all electors and ultimately resulted in a high turnout. Mr. Aleman declared himself the winner in the presidential race but Mr. Ortega refused to concede defeat and charged that there were irregularities in the vote count. However, the observers deemed the exercise generally fair, with the organisational difficulties not amounting to fraud.

On 8 November, the Supreme Electoral Council proclaimed Mr. Aleman the victor with 51% of the vote as against 37% for Mr. Ortega who came in second - a clear margin over the 45% needed to avoid a runoff ballot. Parliamentary results, for their part, were only published on 4 December; the FSLN remained the single largest party with 36 seats while the three-party Liberal Alliance captured a total of 42 and, with the support of other conservatives, patched together an absolute majority in the 93-seat legislature. Mr. Aleman took office as President on 10 January 1997, the day after the new Cabinet was announced. He proposed a "national pact" to favour "reconciliation" and economic progress to pull Nicaragua out of its widespread poverty.

STATISTICS
Round no 1 (20 October 1996): Elections results  
Number of registered electors 2,421,067
Voters 1,865,833 (77%)
Blank or invalid ballot papers 92,432
Valid votes 1,773,401

Round no 1: Distribution of seats  
Political Group Total
Liberal Alliance 42
Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) 36
Christian Path (PCC) 4
Conservative Party (PCN) 3
Others 8

Comments:
  Including three seats to losing presidential candidates

Distribution of seats according to sex:  
Men: 84
Women: 9


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Copyright 1996 Inter-Parliamentary Union