Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega has ensure a fourth consecutive term in Sunday’s election, despite a chorus of criticism from rights groups, opposition figures and international observers who described the vote as “a fraud”.
The Sandinista leader, who ran alongside his wife and vice-presidential candidate Rosario Murillo, received 76 percent support, the Electoral Supreme Council (CSE) said late Monday after a preliminary count of votes.
“Today we stand up against those who promote terrorism, finance war, kill those who sow terror,” Ortega said on Sunday when he knocked out his opponents once again.
But the vote was held after months of government repression of dissent, as dozens of opposition figures – including seven presidential hopefuls – were detained in what rights groups said were an attempt to guarantee Ortega’s re-election.
Several other opposition leaders were forced into exile, often to neighboring Costa Rica, while dissident groups called on Nicaraguane abroad to boycott Sunday’s vote in protest of the arrest campaign.
Now, with Ortega set to begin another five-year term as president in January, political analysts and experts say Nicaragua faces a critical moment – and are warned that the Central American nation is facing further deterioration. of human rights.
“There is currently no light at the end of the tunnel,” said Jennie Lincoln, a senior adviser to The Carter Center, a group in the United States that helped uphold the fairness of Ortega’s 2006 election. said, but found “significant shortcomings” when he won. five years later re-election.
“Election day is going to come and go, and the situation for the people who are in jail is not going to change, the position of the opposition and the heavy, heavy boot print on them is unlikely to change,” Lincoln told The Associated Press .
Some 4.5 million Nicaraguans were eligible to vote for president and vice president on Sunday, as well as the National Assembly and Nicaragua’s representation in the Central American parliament.
But with the country’s main opposition jailed or banned from participating, only five unknown candidates from mostly small parties affiliated with Ortega’s Sandinistas were allowed to stand against him.
The CSE said turnout was 65 percent, but Open Polls, an opposition effort to observe the election, said it had an average turnout of about 18 percent on more than 1,450 monitors across the country.
Both Ortega, who ruled Nicaragua from 1979 to 1990 before returning to power in 2007, and Murillo welcomed the result, with Murillo calling the vote “the first sovereign elections in Nicaragua’s history.”
Russia, Cuba and Venezuela have voiced support for Ortega, while the US, UK and EU have rejected the vote, with US President Joe Biden accusing Ortega and his wife of holding a “pantomime election” was free or fair, orchestrated “.
While the preliminary vote count was released on Monday, Amnesty International said a civil election watchdog named Urnas Abiertas reported more than 200 acts of political violence and electoral coercion on Sunday.
This includes “the presence of parapolitan forces in the vicinity of the polling stations, as well as intimidation and coercion of state workers to force them to vote,” the human rights group said in a statement.
“Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo’s renewed mandate as President and Vice President predicts the continued existence of the structures behind the repressive strategy against critical voices and guaranteed impunity for crimes under international law,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Amnesty’s US director.
‘Difficult year’ ahead
Other experts have said that Nicaraguane is facing difficult months as the international community – which has already issued a series of sanctions against Ortega’s government in recent months – weighs his response to the election.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has already said the Biden administration will impose sanctions and other measures “to promote accountability to those who are complicit in supporting the Ortega-Murillo government’s undemocratic actions”. This was confirmed on Tuesday by the US Special Envoy for Central America, Ricardo Zuniga.
The European Union’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the bloc would “consider all instruments at our disposal to take additional measures” against Ortega’s “autocratic” regime.
Meanwhile, the Organization of American States (OAS), which strongly criticized the opposition arrests, will discuss the issue later this week at a General Assembly, where Nicaragua runs the risk of being suspended.
Next year “will be a decidedly difficult year for the government, but also for the people, both in economic and political terms”, Elvira Cuadra, security and government expert at Nicaragua’s IEEPP political studies institute, told AFP news agency said.
But political analysts have said increasing isolation is likely to force Ortega’s hand; instead, it could exacerbate an already severe economic crisis in Nicaragua and fuel migration.
More than 103,600 people have left the country since then mass-anti-government protests broke out in 2018. More than 300 people were killed in the subsequent government’s crackdown on the protests, while more than 1,600 others were arrested, according to a report by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
“Not recognizing the legitimacy of an election does not function like a magic wand changing the situation of democratic collapse in Nicaragua,” said Kevin Casas of the Stockholm-based Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance.
Nicaraguan political analyst Enrique Saenz also said that “Ortega has no instrument to reverse the political crisis, the international isolation and the social expressions of the crisis, such as unemployment, unemployment and poverty”.
“Ortega only has oppression and oppression is not enough to suppress the rejection of the population indefinitely.”