Without surprises, Ortega achieves with 75% of votes his fourth consecutive government in Nicaragua

The president of Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega, won a fourth consecutive term this Monday, after obtaining 75% of the votes, in a controversial election in which he did not have a real competition, with seven opposition candidates currently detained.

Once the votes of half of the polling stations had been counted, the president of the Supreme Electoral Council (CSE), Brenda Rocha, specified that in second place, very far away is the liberal candidate – designated as a government collaborator – Walter Espinoza, with 14.4% of the votes.

Shortly after the publication of these partial results, the European Union (EU) assured that "lack legitimacy" and the Spanish government considered that the electoral process had been a "derision".

"It has been a mockery, a mockery of the Nicaraguan people, a mockery of the international community and above all a mockery of democracy"declared the Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs, José Manuel Albares.

On Sunday, US President Joe Biden said the election had been a "farce". At the same time, the president of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, congratulated his ally.

The elections "complete the conversion of Nicaragua into an autocratic regime"the EU said in a statement.

In the streets of Managua, waving red and black FSLN flags and amid fireworks, music and dancing, Ortega’s followers celebrated early Monday morning in the Plaza de las Victorias, in the center of the capital. "Whether the Yankees like it or not, we rule!"said a woman.

After coming to power through the polls in 2007, Ortega, who will turn 76 on Thursday, will assume another five years as president, at the head of the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN, left), along with his powerful wife Rosario Murillo, from 70, who will be vice president for the second time.

The former Sandinista guerrilla, who also ruled the country in the 1980s after the FSLN overthrew dictator Anastasio Somoza in 1979, faced Espinoza and four other right-wing candidates, unknown and labeled as government collaborators.

After 14 years in power, Ortega is accused by his critics and opponents of "nepotism" and to establish a dictatorship, while the ex-guerrilla assures that his government is from "village" and defends the sovereignty of his country from "attacks" from the United States.

The CSE estimated participation at 65%, although the independent observatory Urnas Abiertas assured that abstention would have reached 81.5%, although these data have not been verified.

The opponents, the majority in exile or prisoners, had called for abstention.

The elections also appointed 90 deputies to a Congress that, like all branches of the state, is under government control. Urnas Abierta pointed out that the elections were marked by the "abstention", "paramilitary control" and "harassment of state workers" to force them to vote.

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As electoral reforms were adopted and spaces were closed to the opposition, Ortega has been increasing the percentage of his victories: in 2006 he won with 38%, in 2011 with 63% and in 2016 with 72%.

Implosion?

The elections were held three and a half years after the 2018 protests that demanded Ortega’s resignation and whose repression left at least 328 dead and more than 100,000 exiles, plunging the Central American country of 6.5 million inhabitants into a deep political crisis. .

In the months leading up to the elections, three parties were outlawed and 39 social activists, politicians, businessmen and journalists – including seven presidential candidates – were arrested, adding to some 120 opponents who have remained in prison since 2018.

"Given that the regime has lost a good part of its social base, and therefore also real power, it resorts to increasing repression to try to nullify the ongoing implosion process.", affirmed the sociologist Oscar René Vargas.

"The integrity of the electoral process was crushed by the systematic imprisonment, harassment and intimidation of pre-candidates and opposition leaders"said the head of European diplomacy, Josep Borrell, in a note on behalf of the 27 countries of the bloc.

On Sunday, Ortega accused opponents of conspiring against the "peace" of the country, while calling them "terrorists".

Under laws passed at the end of 2020, the recent detainees are accused of undermining sovereignty, promoting international sanctions, "treason" and "money laundering", as is the case of the favorite opposition candidate, Cristiana Chamorro, daughter of former President Violeta Barrios de Chamorro (1990-1997) and currently under house arrest.

Sanctions and isolation

Following the arrests of opponents, the United States and the EU imposed sanctions on Ortega’s inner circle and questioned the elections as undemocratic.

Biden is preparing to sign an arsenal of measures under the RENACER law – approved by Congress last week – to increase pressure on the Ortega government.

The situation in Nicaragua will also be debated this week in the General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS), which could suspend the country from the regional bloc, although experts point out that isolation will worsen the situation and further trigger migration.

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