As voters quickly filed into a tin-roofed shack in a Managua slum yesterday morning, checking their ballots in secrecy in curtained corners of this private-home-turned-polling-place, many international electoral observers said the technical aspects of Nicaragua's first post-revolution, presidential election are commendable.
The atmosphere here in the shack, where voters marked their ballots near a framed portrait of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and at nine other polling places visited, would not indicate to the casual observer that this election was basically uncontested.
Sandinista presidential candidate Daniel Ortega Saavedra is a shoo-in because the two major opposition candidates have withdrawn from the race, charging their campaigns were hampered by censorship and their supporters attacked by Sandinista mobs in August and September. The Reagan administration has continued to call the election a sham. Most non-Sandinista Nicaraguan politicians continue to call the vote a nonevent.
One of the two key candidates who withdrew, Virgilio Godoy Reyes of the Independent Labor Party, said in a Monitor interview over the weekend that the Sandinistas should have postponed voting. He said campaign conditions had become better over the past month - with less censorship and a cessation of Sandinista harassment at campaign rallies - but that ''one month of good campaigning is not enough.''
However, he went on to compare favorably Nicaragua's election with presidential elections in El Salvador earlier this year.
''If the US is going to try to be honest in evaluating these elections, it will be a real problem for the Reagan administration,'' Mr. Godoy said.
''If the US administration said that the Guatemalan and Salvadorean elections were valid ones, how can they condemn elections in Nicaragua, when they have been no worse and probably a lot better than elections in Salvador and Guatemala.
''The elections here have been much more peaceful. There were no deaths as in the other two countries, where the opposition were often in fear for their lives.''
Comparisons with the Salvadorean election are also on the minds of most of the international electoral observers and journalists here, many of whom also observed the elections in that neighboring country.
Observers noted serious abuses by Sandinistas in the first two months of the three-month campaign, but at least in the early hours of voting here Sunday, the observers were impressed by what they said was a higher degree of secrecy in Nicaragua's election procedures.
''In Salvador, people generally marked their ballots on little desks in the open and put them into transparent plastic voting urns. At least here in Nicaragua, the people mark their ballots behind drawn curtains, fold them, and then in full view of everyone put them into wooden urns which cannot be seen through,'' said one politically moderate United States electoral observer who has just edited a technical manual for electoral observers.
''There seems to be a great deal less confusion than there was in the early hours of the Salvadorean vote,'' he added. ''Unlike Salvador, the local electoral committees here received the ballots and electoral materials several days ago and are familiar with them. People also know where to go and vote, which they didn't in El Salvador.''
In general, this observer said, Nicaragua's election shows that a simple, well planned, nonautomated voting system was better adapted to Central American conditions than the complicated computerized system which the Salvadoreans attempted.
However, at time of writing it was still too early to say if the voting turnout noted early in the day would be at all indicative of how the turnout would be later in the day.
Also, to the eye of this reporter, who observed the first Salvadorean election earlier this year, there seemed many more polling places per neighborhood than there had been in San Salvador, thus making for shorter lines at each individual voting place.