- Documents on Democracy
Nicaragua held the first free and broadly contested elections in its history on February 25, with hundreds of international observers in attendance to monitor the balloting. Violeta Barrios de Chamorro, the presidential candidate of the 14-party National Opposition Union (UNO), won by an unexpectedly large margin, gaining 55.2 percent of the vote. Excerpts from her victory speech, given the morning of February 26, follow:
I want to congratulate all Nicaraguans because today it is everyone's triumph. We have given the world a magnificent example of civic duty, demonstrating that we Nicaraguans are a people who want to live in democracy and in peace and, above all, that we want to live in liberty.
We have all accomplished the first democratic election in the history of this country. I confess that I feel overjoyed at such an important moment for Nicaragua.
I want to confirm now that I will honor my commitment to work for national reconciliation, because that is the only way we can achieve peace and economic development.
This is the first election in our history won by the opposition, and, God willing, there will be a peaceful transfer of power.
This is an election that will never result in exiles or political prisoners or confiscations. Here we have neither victors nor vanquished. Today, I confirm my commitment to comply faithfully with the program of the National Opposition Union, which is a program for national salvation.
From the day I agreed to be UNO's candidate, I knew that the Nicaraguan people, given a fair election, as we have had today, would vote to reestablish a democratic republic like the one my husband, Pedro Joaquin Chamorro [editor of La Prensa, assassinated in 1978], dreamed about.
I want to tell you that today we must congratulate each other with a fraternal embrace, because Nicaragua will again be a republic. [End Page 128]
Following are excerpts from a speech given the same morning by Daniel Ortega Saavedra, the president of Nicaragua and the defeated candidate of the Sandinista National Liberation Front:
I wish to say to all Nicaraguans and to the people of the world that the president and government of Nicaragua are going to respect and abide by the popular mandate as shown by the vote in these elections.
I feel that at this historic moment, this constitutes the chief contribution that the Sandinistas and Nicaraguan revolutionaries are making to the Nicaraguan people. That is, we are guaranteeing a clean, pure electoral process . . . that shines as the sun on this dawn of February 26 is shining down upon us. It shines toward the consolidation of a mixed economy, toward the consolidation of a free, independent, and democratic Nicaragua, at peace and without intervention by any foreign power, where all Nicaraguans will be able to show the world that we can turn our dreams and hopes into reality . . . .
President F.W. de Klerk opened Parliament on February 2 by announcing his plans to seek a "negotiated understanding among the representative leaders of the entire population." De Klerk's speech, a clear departure from longstanding National Party policy, surprised many. The new measures he announced included rescinding the ban on the most prominent antiapartheid organizations and the unconditional release of African National Congress (ANC) leader Nelson Mandela. De Klerk spoke about his goals as follows:
Our country and all its people have been embroiled in conflict, tension, and violent struggle for decades. It is time for us to break out of the cycle of violence and break through to peace and reconciliation. . . . With the steps the government has taken it has proven its good faith and the table is laid for sensible leaders to begin talking about a new dispensation, to reach an understanding by way of dialogue and discussion.
The agenda is open and the overall aims to which we are aspiring should be acceptable to all reasonable South Africans.
Among other things, those aims include a new, democratic constitution; universal franchise; no domination; equality before an independent judiciary; the protection of minorities as well as of individual rights; freedom of religion; a sound economy based on proven economic principles and private...