Documents on Democracy

Issue Date Spring 1990
Volume 1
Issue 2
Page Numbers 128-31
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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 . . . .

South Africa

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 enterprise; [and] dynamic programs directed at better education, health services, housing, and social conditions for all . . . . [End Page 129]

After 28 years as a prisoner of South Africa, Nelson Mandela was released on February 11. Two days later, he addressed a crowd of more than 100,000 supporters at a stadium in Soweto, near Johannesburg. In the speech, he spoke to the concerns of many South African whites about his and the ANC’s commitment to democracy:

A number of obstacles to the creation of a nonracial democratic South Africa remain and need to be tackled. The fears of whites about their rights and place in a South Africa they do not control exclusively is an obstacle we must understand and address.

I stated in 1964 that I and the ANC are as opposed to black domination as we are to white domination. We must accept, however, that our statements and declarations alone will not be sufficient to allay the fears of white South Africans.

We must clearly demonstrate our goodwill to our white compatriots and convince them by our conduct and arguments that a South Africa without apartheid will be a better home for all.

A new South Africa has to eliminate the racial hatred and suspicion caused by apartheid and offer guarantees to all its citizens of peace, security, and prosperity . . . .


On March 11, the Lithuanian Supreme Soviet unanimously declared Lithuania independent of the Soviet Union, which forcibly annexed the Baltic republic in 1940. The vote was made possible by the overwhelming electoral victory of Sajudis, the broad-based Lithuanian independence movement, in February 25 elections for the republic’s Supreme Soviet. The election platform of Sajudis called for Lithuania to become a “democratic, parliamentary, republican system” with guarantees for “all fundamental human and civil rights and freedoms as well as their unrestricted defense in a court of law.” Excerpts from the Sajudis platform appear below:

  • Foreign Policy
    • To adopt a resolution by the Lithuanian SSR Supreme Soviet declaring that the election to the People’s Diet of 1940 and its decisions are illegal and invalid;
    • To abolish all constitutional obligations of Lithuania and its citizens to the Soviet Union (among them, the obligation to serve in the Soviet army), and for that purpose to revise the corresponding articles in the Lithuanian SSR Constitution;
    • To proclaim the act of restoration of the Lithuanian state–the legal successor of the Republic of Lithuania . . . . [End Page 130]
    • To begin interstate negotiations with the USSR on changing the current status of the Soviet army to that of a foreign army and on defining the terms and conditions of its withdrawal from Lithuanian territory . . . .
    • To thoroughly develop mutually beneficial economic and cultural relations with the USSR and other countries;
    • To reestablish diplomatic international contacts and return to the European and world community of states.
  • Domestic Policy
    • To preserve Lithuania’s territorial integrity and indivisibility, to recruit citizens of all nationalities for the creation and consolidation of an independent Lithuania, and to foster their civic patriotism . . . .
    • To implement the principle of separating legislative, executive, and judicial power . . . .
    • To depoliticize law-enforcement bodies;
    • To consolidate a multiparty system as a guarantor of democracy;
    • To further develop Church-state relations according to democratic principles;
    • To create the conditions for establishing free trade unions . . . .
    • To identify and call to account the executors of Stalinist genocide and other crimes against the people of Lithuania.
  • Economics
    • To develop an economy and economic management system based on market relations;
    • To legalize all forms of ownership and provide equal conditions for them;
    • To implement a policy of denationalization and reprivatization . . . .
    • To grant all industrial enterprises and farms the status of independent firms;
    • To create the legal and economic conditions for the functioning of self-government in towns and districts . . . .
  • Culture
    • To thoroughly develop Lithuania’s national culture and preserve its identity;
    • To support efforts by society, its organizations, the Catholic Church, and other religious communities to foster morality, sobriety, and civic responsibility . . . .
    • To abolish censorship as well as state and party monopoly of the mass media . . . .
    • To support the efforts of national minority communities to foster their cultures . . . .
    • To reorganize the current system of science and learning and to create the conditions for the establishment of institutions of science and learning free of state control . . . . [End Page 131]