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Nicaraguan elections: why combatting poverty is a decisive factor

News from Nicaragua | Friday, 23 September 2016 |

On 6 November, Nicaraguans will go to the polls in elections for the President, 90 National Assembly deputies, and 20 Nicaraguan members of the Central American parliament.

A poll carried out between 27 July and 1 August by the polling organisation M&R consultores, indicated that an overwhelming victory for the FSLN is the likely outcome.

62.8% of respondents indicated their intention to vote for the FSLN, 26.8% are undecided, and 10.4% support opposition parties. These figures are very similar to all polls conducted over the past year. Approval ratings for FSLN Presidential candidate Daniel Ortega and Vice Presidential candidate Rosario Murillo were 79.3% and 72.7% respectively.

In total there are 16 parties participating organised into two electoral alliances, four national parties and one regional party.

The main opposition parties standing candidates are the Constitutionalist Liberal Party (PLC) with presidential candidate Maximino Rodríguez, and the Independent Liberal Party (PLI),with candidate Pedro Reyes Vallejos.

The Sandinistas returned to power in 2007 with a commitment to economic stability and to addressing poverty through a comprehensive, integrated strategy for improving the lives of the nearly 50% of the population suffering chronic and persistent levels of poverty.

In what the World Bank has described as a ‘remarkable economic turnaround’ GDP has increased by an average of four to five per cent annually, inflation has dropped to low single figures, exports have doubled, and Foreign Direct Investment has quadrupled. Nicaragua has experienced one of the highest growth rates in the region at 4.9% for 2015 and a forecast of 4.2% for 2016.

According to the 2014 Standard of Living Survey of the National Development Information Institute, between 2009 and 2014 general poverty dropped from 42.5 per cent to 29.6 per cent, while in the same period extreme poverty dropped from 14.6 to 8.3 per cent. This represents improvements in the lives of tens of thousands of people, particularly women, whose suffering had been ignored by previous governments.

The FSLN government’s commitment to poverty includes health care, education, transport, access to credit, support for rural families, security of land titles, and infrastructure improvements. Government policy has also prioritised food assistance to the most vulnerable, support for very young children, house building and repair programmes, mass health campaigns against mosquito-borne diseases, and nationwide support for sport and cultural activities.

Nicaragua remains the second poorest country in the Americas after Haiti. Sixty-three per cent of respondents in the August M&R consultores poll indicated that unemployment was the biggest problem facing the country, and 43 per cent were concerned about the high cost of goods and services.

However, given Nicaragua’s history of wars, persistently high levels of poverty, natural and climate change provoked disasters, and its location in a region fraught with inequality and instability, huge progress has been made since 2007 in addressing the problems of the most marginalised and impoverished in a far more coherent way than at any time in the past.

A survey by Latinbarometro 2016 based on interviews conducted between 15 May and 15 June, 2016 indicates an approval rating of 69% for the Sandinista government, the second highest rating in the Latin American region. This represents an extraordinarily high level of support for a government that has been in power for the past nine years.

This NSC briefing explains why the government’s success in stabilising the economy and combatting poverty will be decisive factors in the choice that Nicaraguan voters make on 6 November.

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