Saturday, December 4, 2021

Nicaraguan election kicks off with Ortega reelection

Nicaraguans on Sunday denounced presidential elections as a “sham” by US President Joe Biden, as longtime leader Daniel Ortega ridiculed his opponents – most of them in prison or exile – as “terrorists”.

Polling stations closed at 6 p.m. (midnight GMT) after 11 hours of polling under 30,000 police and soldiers, in what the right groups described as an atmosphere of fear.

With seven presidential contenders being detained since June, 75-year-old Ortega has been assured a five-year term in a row – his fifth overall – by his wife and 70-year-old, Rosario Murillo, by his side.

Ortega faced five presidential contenders, but to name only – all dismissed as regime aides.

Results of the vote, which the opposition said was marked by a massive boycott, even as the regime claimed a high turnout, are expected within hours.

US President Joe Biden said in a statement that the results were rigged long before Sunday’s election.

“What Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo organized today, was a pantomime election that was neither free nor fair, and certainly not democratic,” the president said.

Former guerrilla hero Ortega launched a fresh attack on his opponents on Sunday, saying: “On this day we stand up for those who perpetrate terrorism, finance war, those who sow terror, death.”

He was referring to Nicaragua, which took part in massive protests against his government in 2018 that were met with a violent crackdown that claimed more than 300 lives in Central America’s poorest country. did.

Nearly 150 people have been jailed since then, including 39 opposition figures since June for Sunday’s voting.

Another nearly 100,000 Nicaraguans have fled into exile.

“They didn’t want these elections to happen,” Ortega said, branding his opponents as “terrorists” and “monsters who don’t want peace.”

Fear was rife among the 44 million Nicaraguans eligible to vote in a country of 6.5 million.

“There is no one to vote. It’s an election circus. If they (the regime) are so sure that people love them, why did they put presidential candidates in jail?” The 51-year-old secretary told AFP.

Like many others, she too was afraid to reveal her name.

Small lines of voters wearing face masks could be seen at some of the 13,459 polling stations, but many were empty when AFP visited.

Members of Ortega’s ruling Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) went from door to door calling citizens to the ballot box.

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The Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (Senidh) said that Nicaragua was a “police state”, using tactics of “fear (and) social control” to “crush the opposition”.

Protests were held on Sunday in Costa Rica, Spain, the United States and Guatemala – countries that are home to thousands of Nicaragua deportees.

“We want the evil couple (Ortega and Murillo) to leave the country and go back to democracy,” said Marcos Martínez, one of about a thousand protesters in the Costa Rican capital San Jose.

In Nicaragua itself, gatherings of more than 200 people have been banned, apparently as a measure to contain the coronavirus.

The exiled opposition has called for a boycott of Sunday’s voting.

The election took place without international observers and most foreign media refused entry into the country.

Only “election attendants” and journalists from countries the government considers “friendly”, such as Russia, were recognized.

From Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro – his own 2018 re-election not recognized by most of the international community – congratulated Ortega on his impending victory, calling him an ally against the United States and Europe.

A flamboyant Marxist in his youth, Ortega ruled Nicaragua from 1979 to 1990, when US-backed dictator Anastasio Somoza DeBele was ousted by guerrillas.

After returning to power in 2007, he won re-election three times, becoming increasingly authoritarian and abolishing the presidency.

The jailed opposition figures are accused of unspecified attacks on Nicaragua’s “sovereignty” under a law passed by a parliament dominated by Ortega allies, who also control the judiciary and the electoral body.

Election officials have banned the country’s main opposition coalition from contesting Sunday’s polls.

The director of Nicaragua’s last opposition daily, La Prensa, was jailed in August, and Facebook announced this week that it had shut down a government-run troll farm spreading anti-Semitic messages.

In a recent seed-Gallup poll, two-thirds of respondents said they would have voted for the opposition candidate on Sunday.

The favorite was Cristiana Chamorro, daughter of Violet Barrios de Chamorro, who is the only person to defeat Ortega in an election in 1990.

Chamorro is under house arrest, and six other presidential candidates have been jailed under circumstances whose families say it amounted to torture.

The United States and Europe have imposed sanctions against members and allies of the Ortega family.

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This article is republished from – Voa News – Read the – original article.

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