Daniel Ortega is on his fifth term in Nicaragua

Nicaragua will face a presidential election this Sunday that do not have unknowns because the president Daniel Ortega is on track to achieve another mandate, the fourth in a row and the fifth in total. Ortega, candidate of the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), still has to outperform five other candidates at the polls, but none seem to have a serious chance of snatching the victory since it is about leaders little known to most Nicaraguans.

The voting day is preceded by a tenuous campaign, barely nuanced by few notices in the media and very few public events by the candidates, largely in response to the provisions of the electoral authorities by the pandemic.
The Electoral Council authorized acts of no more than 200 people and with a maximum of 90 minutes duration.

The main squares of Managua were in recent weeks full of Christmas decorations and special lighting, and without signs, posters or parades with the usual campaign promises. With the term ending in January, Ortega is already the longest-serving president in the country’s history, and the five years he is likely to win will take him to a place that another president can hardly match.

Alfredo Montielof the Nicaraguan Liberal Alliance (ALN); Mauricio Orue Vasquez, from the Independent Liberal Party (PLI); Walter Espinoza, from the Constitutionalist Liberal Party (PLC); Guillermo Osorno, from the Nicaraguan Christian Way; and Gerson Gutiérrez Gasparín, of the Alliance for the Republic (APRE) are the other candidates.

But they can hardly complicate the triumph of the president. Ortega has spent more than half his life as the undisputed leader of the FSLN, a party for which he was the only presidential candidate in 1984, 1990, 1996, 2001, 2006, 2011 and 2016.

Daniel Ortega repeats the formula with his wife, Rosario Murillo.

Since 2014, by a decision of Congress endorsed by Justice, there is no limit on the number of presidential terms and Ortega repeats the formula with his wife, Rosario Murillo.

Arrests

But the vote is also the end of a questioned process, both nationally and internationally: it comes after the arrest of some thirty opposition leaders, including eight presidential candidates, the prohibition of participating to three parties and the cancellation of a score of NGOs.

Most of the decisions, which the Government detaches by attributing them to the Justice, are based on an unprecedented norm for the region: the Law for the Defense of the Rights of the People to Independence, Sovereignty and Self-determination for Peace, a norm that has just 224 words, two articles (the second one) and that was voted in just 24 hours by the Congress, dominated by the ruling party.

Money laundering and falsification of documents were added to some of the accusations that led to arrests, and in all cases the figure that falls on those arrested is that of “treason“.

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The only exception is that of the journalist and the most popular opposition candidate Christian Chamorro, who was surveyed as a risk rival for Ortega, accused of money laundering and ideological falsehood.

The other candidates arrested are the former chancellor Jose Pallais, the political scientist Felix maradiaga, the economist Juan Sebastián Chamorro, the former diplomat Arturo Cruz, the economist Noel Vidaurre, the also journalist Miguel Mora and the peasant leader Medardo Maidena.

The former model was also arrested Berenice Quezada, who was to be the second in the Citizens for Freedom (CxL) formula, which would lead the former head of the Nicaraguan Resistance (known as “the contras”) Oscar Sobalvarro.

Orimero arrested Cruz and Juan Chamorro, then Quezada, and a week later the Electoral Council canceled the legal status of the force because its head, Kitty Monterrey, he has dual citizenship. The force was left out of the elections. Two other structures had already been canceled before: the Conservative Party and the Party for Democratic Restoration. For this reason, part of the opposition calls for abstention.

They elect 90 deputies

On Sunday, 90 deputies will also vote for the National Assembly and 20 for the Central American Parliament. The National Assembly, in fact, has 92 seats, but one is for the outgoing president (who has not been there for 15 years) and another for whoever occupies the second place in the elections.

The electoral system provides for a second round, avoidable if the winner reaches 45 percent of the votes or a minimum of 35 percent and five points of difference with the second. Whoever wins will begin his term on January 10, and the new legislators will take office the day before.

Although no country has announced that it plans to ignore the results, the day after the elections represents a real unknown because the OAS, the European Union and the United States denounced the situation of imprisoned opponents and a manipulation of the Electoral Council. The government responded by rejecting electoral observers from these regional blocs.

There will be about 30,000 security personnel (15,000 and 16,000 police officers) to guard the elections, and the 4.3 million Nicaraguans qualified will vote in 13,459 polling stations, which will function from 7 to 18 (10 to 21 in Argentina).

The elections were questioned by the OAS Security Council, the European Union, International Amnesty, Human Rights Watch and, in the surely harsher pronouncement, for the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). In parallel, Mexico and Argentina expressed their concern over the arrest of dozens of opponents.

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