Nicaraguan Ortega seeks re-election in contested vote | World news


MANAGUA, Nicaragua (AP) – Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega is running for a fourth consecutive term in Sunday’s election against a group of little-known candidates while those who could have challenged him are in prison.

The opposition called on Nicaraguans to stay at home to protest an electoral process which has been strongly criticized as not credible by foreign powers.

Sunday’s election will determine who holds the presidency for the next five years, as well as 90 of the country’s 92 congress seats and Nicaragua’s representation in the Central American Parliament.

The Ortega Sandinista Front and its allies control the Congress and all government institutions. Ortega was first president from 1985 to 1990, before returning to power in 2007. He recently declared his wife first lady and vice president Rosario Murillo “co-president”.

In June, police arrested seven potential presidential candidates on charges that amount to essentially treason. They remained in detention on election day. Some two dozen other opposition leaders were also swept away ahead of the election.

Political cartoons about world leaders

Political cartoons

The other candidates in Sunday’s poll are little-known politicians from minor parties considered friendly with the Ortega Sandinista Front.

With little doubt about the outcome of the presidential election, attention is already turning to the international response as Ortega seeks to tighten his grip on power.

The United States and the European Union have imposed sanctions on those close to Ortega, but Ortega only responded by arresting more of his opponents.

A senior US State Department official on Friday, who spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity, said the US government was willing to consider additional targeted sanctions, but had tried to avoid measures that would have a wider impact on the Nicaraguan people.

“It’s very difficult when you have a government that has very minimal goals, including staying in power at all costs and ignoring the will of its own citizens or the needs of citizens to retain that power,” the official said.

The Organization of American States condemned Nicaragua’s detention of political prisoners and its refusal to hold free and fair elections, but Ortega’s government only railed against foreign interference.

The regional body will hold its annual general meeting in Guatemala later this week. Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico were among seven countries that abstained last month from passing an OAS resolution condemning the crackdown in Nicaragua.

In Nicaragua, polls were scheduled to close for 6 p.m. on Sunday and the Supreme Electoral Council said the first partial results would be released around midnight. Provisional vote totals are expected on Monday.

Some 30,000 police and soldiers were deployed to secure the vote, according to the government.

AP writer Christopher Sherman in Mexico City contributed to this report.

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