Nicaraguan opposition thinks powerful Ortegas may edge closer to political pact
This week's election in Nicaragua was neither as good nor as bad as partisans on either side would have it. But international observers of varying political stripes seem to have turned their election-watching into a plebiscite on President Reagan's Central America policy.Skip to next paragraph
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Many liberal observers, for example, can be seen around the capital acting like political groupies of President-elect Daniel Ortega Saavedra, and his brother Humberto, Nicaragua's Army chief. They seem to feel morally obligated to justify Nicaragua's election to forestall any further harassment of Sandinista Nicaragua by the United States. Many of them share the Sandinistas' view that the Reagan administration's next step might be an invasion.
Conservative and pro-Reagan observers, on the other hand, are grasping at every negative straw to portray Nicaragua's flawed election as the type of fraudulent vote found in the worst totalitarian states. They seem to be trying to discredit the vote in order to justify whatever big-stick measures the Reagan administration may be inclined to take.
Still other diplomatic observers and even top Nicaraguan opposition leaders think the main criticism to be leveled here today is that the Sandinistas do not yet have the political maturity to ''bite the bullet.'' That is, they do not seem able to make the political concessions necessary to obtain a social pact with the disaffected opposition.
And yet the Sandinistas do realize that they must reach some agreement with the private sector and the middle class to regain the financial backing of their Latin American and Socialist International allies if they are to withstand US pressure and survive.
The opposition asked for three months of unhampered campaigning, followed by some type of power-sharing arrangement that would have left the Sandinistas in control but given the opposition a little piece of the political pie. The essential thing was to prove the Sandinista's good faith. All the players were to be assured that Nicaragua was heading in the direction of a somewhat more radical Mexico-style government rather than a Cuban-style regime.
Today, many observers here share opposition leader Arturo Cruz Porras's hope that the relatively moderate Ortega brothers - who will be more firmly in control as a result of the election - will be able to nudge the dialogue with the opposition toward success.
''I put a lot of importance on what Daniel Ortega as president of Nicaragua wants to and can do,'' Mr. Cruz says. ''If he can and wants to badly enough, he can lead us out of the imbroglio we are now in.''
Some thoughtful observers here are left with many questions about the election. They wonder whether the two major opposition candidates did the right thing in withdrawing from the election. And they are asking themselves why the Sandinistas hampered campaigning in August and September only to open up the political process in October.
The Sandinistas charge that opposition leaders Cruz and Independent Labor Party leader Virgilio Godoy Reyes were manipulated by the US and that they withdrew from the election because they knew they would not win. The opposition denies this charge.
In order to answer these questions, one must take a close look at Nicaragua's condition.
The campaign began on Aug. 8 and for the first two weeks the unprepared opposition parties were basically inactive. When they did begin campaigned toward the end of August, their campaign faced face intense Sandinista harassment. The breaking up of rallies and the harassment of campaigning workers was neither brutal nor systematic enough to be called totalitarian, but many thought it similar to Somoza-style pressure.