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Postelection Statement on Nicaragua Elections, Nov. 15, 1996

ATLANTA, GA.... The Carter Center's electoral observation mission to Nicaragua wishes to express its admiration for the peaceful and civic way in which the people and political parties of Nicaragua have participated in all phases of the vote count process since the Oct. 20 national elections. After an exhaustive review and correction of the polling station (JRV) results in each of the 17 departmental headquarters, the Supreme Electoral Council announced provisional election results on Nov. 8. Although the outcome of the presidential election is unlikely to be affected, the official winners of all six elections will be declared only at the end of the appeals and resolutions phase of the process, expected to be completed by Nov. 20.

The Carter Center's Council of Freely Elected Heads of Government deployed a 47-person election observation team to 14 departments on election day. The Center opened an office in May and sent four pre-election missions in the past year to monitor the entire electoral process. A full report will be issued in December.

As observers invited by the Supreme Electoral Council and the principal political parties, and at the request of President Chamorro, The Carter Center continues to maintain its office in Nicaragua, under the direction of Dr. Shelley McConnell, to observe the post-election process. The project coordinator, Dr. Jennifer McCoy, returned to Nicaragua Nov. 6 to assess the review process, meet with the political parties, and witness the Nov. 8 announcement.

The vote count and transmission contained a number of irregularities that emerged on the night of the election and in the following days. As a result, the departmental review process was unusually extensive, recounting many ballots, making corrections in the tally sheets, and annulling a number of JRV results because of the disappearance of ballots and other serious problems. Regrettably, the Supreme Electoral Council did not release this information on the corrections made during the departmental reviews, the number and location of annulled polling stations, and the number of votes actually counted to determine the provisional results that were announced on Nov. 8.

It is essential that the Supreme Electoral Council release this information as soon as possible so both Nicaraguans and international observers can evaluate the parties' appeals as well as the Council's announcement. It is only by such an open and comprehensive review that the people of Nicaragua will have confidence in the official outcomes.

The fact that all Nicaraguan parties are pursuing their concerns through legal channels is a very positive statement about the progress that has been made in recent years toward building a civil society in a democratic framework. But the next few weeks will be critical. We hope that the parties put forward their complaints in a responsible fashion, that the Supreme Electoral Council is responsive to legitimate complaints, and that the parties then accept those results. This is essential for the elections of October 20 to move Nicaragua forward in consolidating its democracy. The Nicaraguan people deserve nothing less.

We will issue another statement at the conclusion of this process.

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