Nicaraguans will vote on Sunday in elections with an expected victory for President Daniel Ortega to take up a new term after 14 years in power, without much competition, with seven opposition candidates imprisoned.
Ortega, who turns 76 on Thursday, is preparing to ratify another five years as president, at the head of the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN, left) and with his powerful wife Rosario Murillo (70), the party’s vice presidential candidate. The second time.
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There is no doubt that he will continue to be in power. Ortega, who ruled in the 1980s after FSLN fighters ousted dictator Anastasio Somoza in 1979, is facing five unknown right-wing candidates classified as government collaborators. Thus, the focus of elections in this poor Central American country of 6.5 million people is not who to vote, but whether to abstain or participate.
“It’s not ugly, it’s awful. You can’t talk because they’re arresting you. What am I going to go for?” Jose, 78, who has supported the FSLN for decades, told AFP that those who would vote are the Sandinistas.
Marina Aguirre, 36, from the Memorial Sandino neighborhood in western Managua, will vote: “We have free hospitals and schools. My kids go to public school, and (Ortega) fears every kid has a game every year.” About 4.4 million voters were called to the polls, which will open at 7:00 local time (13:00 GMT) to elect 90 representatives to Congress, Like all state authorities, it is under official control.
This election takes place after three and a half years of protests calling for Ortega’s resignation, the repression of which has left at least 328 dead, more than 150 protesters still imprisoned and more than 100,000 exiles.
With the election date approaching, an attack on the opposition began in June: three parties were banned, seven presidential candidates were arrested, 32 political and social activists, businessmen and journalists were arrested, and 120 prisoners had been imprisoned since the 2018 protests.
The detainees are accused, according to the laws passed at the end of 2020, of violating sovereignty, promoting international sanctions, “betrayal of the homeland” or “money laundering”, as is the case for the favorite opposition candidate, Christiana Chamorro, daughter of former President Violeta Barrios (1990-1997), Under house arrest.
And his critics single out Ortega for “nepotism” and the establishment of “dictatorship”. Opponents of the “coup plotters” are accused of sponsoring Washington. From exile, in Costa Rica and other countries, the opposition on Sunday braced for rallies against what they called an “electoral farce”.
On the eve of the vote, Murillo, the government’s only official spokesman, called for participation in the “electoral party” which he said would be “a ratification of peace”. The government plans to call for dialogue, but critical analysts believe it is a strategy to gain legitimacy and will not be true with opponents imprisoned or exiled. “Don’t be fooled by siren songs,” Vilma Nunez, head of the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (Sinede), told AFP.
The international community, led by the United States and the European Union, had previously dismissed the elections as neither free nor democratic, which Ortega described as “unacceptable interference”. US President Joe Biden, whose country like the European Union has adopted sanctions against Ortega’s inner circle, is preparing to sign an arsenal of measures under the Renaissar Act, to increase pressure.
The situation in Nicaragua will be discussed this week at the General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS), where the suspension of the country’s participation in the regional bloc could be considered. Analysts warn that the isolation will worsen the socio-economic situation and lead to immigration, even though the government expects GDP growth of 6% with the injection of remittances – $1.4 billion from January to August – and international credits and no restrictions nonetheless. . to advance the epidemic.
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On the streets, many do not want to talk or show disgust. That is why we did not make a revolution … to live in fear. A 65-year-old businessman, who did not reveal his identity, asserted that the sanctions will affect people, and he will win this election and the next.
On Saturday, the government approved about 200 “electoral facilities” and journalists from friendly countries and groups, who, according to the Urnas Abertas Observatory, are foreign “Sandinista fighters”, to replace the international monitoring of the Organization of American States or the European Union and international media. About 30,000 police and military will guard 13,459 polling stations, which will close at 6 p.m. local time (0:00 GMT). According to the CSE, there will be results around midnight.
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