246. Telegram 3780 From the Embassy in Nicaragua to the Department of State1

3780. Subject: Elections 1974: Election Results Further Delayed. Ref: Managua 3530.

[1.] Summary: Supreme Electoral Tribunal has delayed announcing final election results until October 1, two days after General Somoza returns from his trip to Taiwan. The tribunal’s task has been complicated by fraud charges on the departmental level by both sides and the politically sensitive issue of abstention. Its unprecedented long silence has blurred the image of fair elections which are free from official manipulation. End summary.

2. On September 21 the Supreme Electoral Tribunal announced that it is further delaying until October 1 the release of final results from the September 1 elections. While the electoral law calls for the announcement of final results by the third Sunday after election day (September 22) it permits postponing the final tally up to an additional month if all the results from the various departments have not been received by the tribunal. In its resolution announcing the delay, the tribunal cited nonreceipt of tallies from the Departments of Granada, Boaco, Matagalpa and Leon. Opposition paper La Prensa reported that the tribunal’s spokesman had lamely blamed hurricane Fifi as the cause even though Fifi had occurred 10 days after the balloting.

3. The tribunal ceased issuing tallies after September 5 with ⅔ of the precincts reporting and Somoza leading Paguaga, his Conservative opponent by a 20:1 margin (Managua 3530). By then departmental leaders of Somoza’s Liberal Party were outraged by surprising and in at least one case (Boaco) highly suspicious claims of Conservative success in simultaneously held municipal elections in three of the four departments specified by the tribunal. The municipal controversies together with the amount of abstention—the GON is privately conceding [Page 668] 40 percent while the pro-abstention group of 27 is claiming 60 percent—are widely suspected as the source of the tribunal’s dilatory tactics.

4. Comment: The electoral tribunal is having an extremely difficult task sorting out the charges and counter charges of electoral fraud in an election where the degree of culpability rather than innocence is at issue. For example, for the first time the Conservatives had an opportunity in this election to cheat from within the electoral system in those six departments where they had a majority on the electoral boards. They are heatedly accused of doing so by local Liberal politicians in the questioned municipal elections.

5. The electoral tribunal’s unprecedented long silence has tended to further blur the credibility of an election already branded a mockery by the non-Paguaga opposition. The fact that the tribunal has decided to delay the final announcement until a few days after Somoza’s return from Taiwan, affording him ample time to approve any decision beforehand, has also detracted from GON efforts to portray the elections as free from official manipulation.

  1. Summary: The Embassy reported that partial returns from the September 1 elections gave Somoza a twenty-to-one advantage over his opponent, but that a final, official tally had not been announced, further undermining the credibility of the Nicaraguan electoral process.

    Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D740273–0314. Confidential. Repeated to Guatemala City, San Salvador, San José, Tegucigalpa, and USCINCSO for POLAD. All brackets are in the original except “[1.]”, added for clarity. Telegram 3530 from Managua is dated September 10. (Ibid., D740252–0311) In telegram 3809 from Managua, September 30, the Embassy reported that the Supreme Electoral Tribunal had announced the official results of the elections on September 28, certifying that Somoza had won 91.7 percent of the vote. (Ibid., D740275–0983) In telegram 217787 to Managua, October 3, the Department transmitted President Ford’s personal congratulations to Somoza on his election. (Ibid., D740279–0656)