Nicaragua: Ortega Triumphs, US Protests
Given the strong words of interference out of Washington in the past few months, the huge result by Ortega in yesterday's Nicaraguan election was stunning (reports had predicted around a 35% tally for Ortega). Unsure how to respond, and trying to pre-empt the other election observers, the US Embassy in Managua challenged the impartiality and transparency of the election early on. The US favored candidate (Montealegre) sounded like he was on the same page and ready for a fight. I doubt the US has much stomach for a fight, but the seeds will be planted early in the attempt to undermine an independent, free-market skeptic south of our border.
The reporting below is compiled from the Guardian and Indepdent
More than a generation after he and the Sandinistas first swept to power in Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega appears to have secured a historic victory to become the country's President again. If confirmed, the outcome will be a huge embarrassment to the United States, which actively campaigned against him.
According to an extrapolation based on a sampling of early results by an electoral observer group, Mr Ortega appeared well ahead of his nearest rivals yesterday and poised to avoid a second-round run-off vote. The projection by the Nicaraguan Civic Group for Ethics and Transparency gave Mr Ortega 38.5 per cent, with his nearest rival, Eduardo Montealegre of the Nicaraguan Liberal Alliance, receiving 29.5 per cent.
Mr Montealegre did not concede defeat, citing irregularities in Sunday's vote. "In a democracy, that is unacceptable. We are going to a second round," he said.
Back since being ousted from the presidency in 1990, in the wake of a brutal civil war against US-sponsored contra rebels and crippling sanctions by Washington, Mr Ortega has reinvented himself as a moderate and devout Catholic. From a social progressive, he has ditched women's rights and income redistribution in his quest to regain power. Nevertheless, his victory, if confirmed, will be hailed by Cuba and Venezuela as a leftward tilt in Latin America.
The U.S. Embassy in Managua said it was too soon to "make an overall judgment on the fairness and transparency of the process." The statement went on to say, “We are receiving reports of some anomalies in the electoral process," including polling stations that opened late and closed early. Roberto Rivas, president of the Supreme Electoral Council, in releasing early results this morning said that he had a communiqué from the United States Embassy which, he said, challenged the impartiality and transparency of the elections.
However, the results were confirmed clean by the Organization of American States, the independent Ethics and Transparency organization and the Latin American Council of Election Experts. Wilfredo Penco, representative of the latter group, said “These elections have been normal, peaceful, transparent and democratic. He added that any attempt to discount the election results, “in particular by foreign embassies, we consider absolutely impertinent.”