After elections yesterday, Nicaragua’s President Daniel Ortega looks set on serving a third term. La Prensa, one of the country’s largest daily newspaper, reports with almost 39 percent of the precincts reporting, Ortega leads with close to 64 percent of the vote.
That said, says La Prensa, reports of irregularities have been widespread. Among them: The election’s committee found bags of ballots thrown outside the Education Ministry in one city, while the ballots from three precincts in the area of Blue Fields were found burned.
Here’s how the international observer from the European Union characterized the the voting process in a press conference, according to La Prensa:
Even though the presidential elections were civil, they lacked transparency, the European Union’s mission chief Luis Yáñez said. Yáñez said he did not understand why the Supreme Electoral Council put so many “roadblocks, so much opacity, and so many traps in a process that should have been clean and transparent.”
Yáñez went on to note that his team was not allowed access in some precincts and that was also the case for other international observers.
This controversy was only expected. Ortega’s candidacy was controversial from the get-go. Ortega was the leader of revolution that toppled a family dynasty in Nicaragua in the ’70s. He lost power in an election in 1990 and came back to power in 2007. The 2007 elections were marred by the same kind of irregularities as these.
Also, the Nicaraguan constitution actually prohibits presidents from serving two consecutive terms, but Ortega took the case to the country’s Supreme Court, which is controlled by his supporters, and it ruled not allowing him to run violated his human rights.
The opposing parties ran under protest, claiming his candidacy is illegal, but irregularities aside, Bloomberg reports Ortega has become popular in the country.
The Wall Street Journal reports on where this leaves us today:
Mr. Ortega didn’t immediately claim victory. But his close ally, Venezuela’s populist President Hugo Chávez, quickly sent Mr. Ortega his congratulations from Caracas and pledged to continue working closely with the Nicaraguan leader.
In a communiqué issued in Mr. Chávez’s name, the Venezuelan government called Mr. Ortega a great leader in their common cause. “The Bolivarian revolution will continue working next to the popular, Christian, allied and socialist Sandinista revolution,” the communiqué said.
Since 2008, Mr. Ortega has benefited from about $500 million a year in aid—about 7% of Nicaragua’s gross domestic product—given to his government by Venezuela, according to the Nicaraguan Central Bank.
For a bit more background, NPR’s Jason Beaubien filed a report on the vote this weekend.