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Nicaragua's Ortega wins 4th term in 'sham' election

November 8, 2021

President Daniel Ortega has secured a clear victory in the Nicaraguan election. Most of his political opponents have been thrown in jail, and human rights groups and newspapers have also been shut down.

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and his wife, Vice-President Rosario Murillo, raise their fists during the commemoration of the 51st anniversary of the Pancasan guerrilla campaign in Managua
President Daniel Ortega, seen here with his wife, Vice-President Rosario Murillo, is set for a fourth consecutive termImage: Inti Ocon/AFP/Getty Images

Polling stations in Nicaragua closed on Sunday in an election the US has labeled a "sham," after all of President Daniel Ortega's serious challengers were locked up or fled into exile.

With over half the ballots counted, Ortega was on course for a fourth consecutive term in office with 75% of the vote.

After casting his vote on Sunday, the longtime leader slammed the US for interference in his country.

"The immense majority of Nicaraguans are voting for peace and not for war and not for terrorism," he said.

What has the international community said?

Various international bodies have criticized the election including the United States, the European Union and global human rights groups.

US President Joe Biden described the vote as a "sham" election in a statement on Sunday evening.

"What Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, orchestrated today was a pantomime election that was neither free nor fair, and most certainly not democratic," Biden said in a White House statement.

Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Monday said the rejection by some Western countries of Nicaragua's election results was unacceptable.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has called Ortega a "dictator" and characterized the election as "fake."

Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares called the election "a farce against the people of Nicaragua, a farce against the international community and above all a farce against democracy."

"There was no kind of verification of these elections. They have no type of guarantees for Spain and the majority of the international community and the European Union," he added. "There was no free and fair election."

Seven people who could have challenged Ortega in Sunday's vote are now in prison, along with 32 other opposition figures, following a government crackdown that started in June against opposition parties.

Ortega, leader of the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), was running against five other candidates critics have called regime collaborators.

With no international observers at the election, foreign media denied access and the director of Nicaragua's last opposition daily La Prensa in jail since August, the US said Ortega is "determined to hold on to power at any cost."

Ortega regime set to face stricter sanctions

"Ortega will continue in power... and the repression against those who defend human rights and think differently to the regime will likely worsen," said Nicaraguan human rights group Colectivo 46/2.

With plans to boycott the election and protests on polling day, over 30,000 police and military were on patrol.

As a result, the US and the EU are looking to impose even stricter sanctions on the country.

Ortega, who held the top job from 1979 to 1990 and then again since 2007, quashed protests in 2018 that left 328 dead, according to the UN.

"Hundreds of protesters were arbitrarily arrested and detained, many for months," Human Rights Watch said in a recent report. "Many were subjected to torture and ill-treatment including electric shocks, severe beatings, fingernail removal, asphyxiation, and rape."

A woman voting during a general elections at a polling station in an elementary school in Managua, Nicaragua
Nicaraguans cast their votes at polling stations across the country on SundayImage: Esteban Felix/AP/picture alliance

The protests saw 150 political opponents put behind bars and forced 100,000 people to flee into exile, mainly to Spain, Costa Rica and the US.

The former revolutionary has dominated politics in the Central American country since the overthrow of dictator Anastasio Somoza in 1979. 

ab, jc/rt (AFP, Reuters)