July 25, 2024

Pathfinder News

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Nicaragua: Ortega Wins Fifth Presidential Term

Daniel Ortega has won the Nicaraguan presidential election according to the country’s Supreme Electoral Council, a win that resulted after a months-long government crackdown on his potential political rivals. The septuagenarian strongman will now enter a fifth term, alongside his vice president and wife, Rosario Murillo.

“Massive participation in all the municipalities,” reported government-run outlet El 19 Digital over the weekend, which described long lines conducted in “order, peace and tranquility.”However, Urnas Abiertas, a civil electoral observatory group, said abstention rates averaged more than 80% across the country, amounting to a boycott of the electoral process that several Nicaraguans described firsthand. “Going to vote is a joke,” a high-ranking clergy member of the Catholic Church in Nicaragua said. “The people are fearful and locked in their houses.” “A lot of the people I know are not leaving their homes,” said another Nicaraguan. in the city of Granada. Driving through town, the streets and polling stations he saw were empty, he added.

At least half a dozen likely presidential contenders were detained ahead of the vote, clearing Ortega’s path to another five years in office. Though five other presidential candidates were listed on the final ballot, none were seen as strong challengers.Among the arrested were former candidate and journalist Cristina Chamorro Barrios (whose mother defeated Ortega at the polls in 1990); her cousin, the economist Juan Sebastian Chamorro Garcia; former diplomat Arturo Cruz; political scientist Felix Maradiaga; journalist Miguel Mora Barberena; and rural labour leader Medardo Mairena Sequeira. Dozens of other prominent critics and opposition leaders were also detained and investigated for alleged national security concerns, moves that much of the international community has criticized as political repression.”We have a right, as Nicaraguans, to open investigations against terrorists and defend the peace,” Ortega said during a press conference.


Furthering concerns that the deck was stacked in favour of the current President and his party, the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), the country’s Ortega-aligned electoral council had limited campaigning and the eligibility of political parties, creating what the Organization of American States Secretary General Luis Almagro described in May as “the worst possible circumstances for an electoral process.” Misinformation and the manipulation of social networks have emerged as another possible contaminant in the electoral process. Facebook last week said it had removed a troll farm of more than 1,000 Facebook and Instagram accounts backed by the government. The accounts had been working to amplify pro-government content, according to the news agency. Throughout it all, the spectre of Covid-19 has loomed over the vote. Though the country has officially counted fewer than 20,000 cases and just 209 deaths since the start of the pandemic, health experts say the reality could be more severe than reported. According to the Pan American Health Organization, less than 20% of Nicaragua’s population has been vaccinated.