Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

Ortega re-elected in Nicaragua

Daniel Ortega has won a landslide victory in the Nicaraguan presidential election (AP)

Nicaraguan president and one-time Sandinista revolutionary Daniel Ortega has been re-elected in a landslide, according to results, overcoming a constitutional limit on re-election and reports of voting problems.

Mr Ortega had 63% support compared with 31% for his nearest challenger, Fabio Gadea, with 86% of the votes counted. Former president Arnoldo Aleman was a distant third with 6%.

The margin of victory is likely to reduce the impact of reports of irregularities during Sunday's vote. A domestic group of observers, Let's Have Democracy, said it recorded 600 complaints of voting irregularities, a handful of injuries in protests and 30 arrests.

Mr Gadea, election observers and oppositions groups raised questions about the validity of the vote, as did the United States.

US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland repeated concerns over whether the elections were transparent and free of intimidation, violence and harassment. "There are quite a number of reports, and we're concerned because the conditions weren't good going in," she said. "And frankly, if the Nicaraguan government had nothing to hide, it should have allowed a broad complement of international monitors."

The Ortega government issued strict guidelines for election observers. International teams had to negotiate for more access, and Nicaraguan observers did not even bother to get credentials.

A team from the European Union said it would issue a report after complaints that included a polling place set on fire, election officials obstructing voters from opposing parties and protests by those who did not receive their voting credentials.

Eliseo Nunez, who headed the Gadea campaign, said 20% of his party's representatives had been blocked from overseeing polling places "by paramilitary mobs". "We can't accept the results because they don't reflect the will of the people, rather the will of the election council," Mr Gadea said in a news conference.

Mr Ortega has yet to acknowledge victory, although he has already received congratulations from his leftist allies, Cuban President Raul Castro and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who has given the Ortega government more than 500 million dollars a year in donations and discounted oil.

His opponents feared that if Mr Ortega won with a clear majority, he would be able to change the constitution to legitimise the Supreme Court ruling and pave the way to becoming president for life.

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