Nicaragua’s president, Daniel Ortega, was hailed as a “national hero” by opponents at home and cheered by foreign dignitaries abroad after securing a third consecutive term in the impoverished nation’s election.
The head of Nicaragua’s national electoral council had announced Ortega’s win on Sunday night, the United States embassy in Managua tweeted: “Congratulations to President @danielortega on Nicaragua’s presidential elections. He represents the Nicaraguan people and all Nicaraguans well. He is a national hero.”
Ortega’s first electoral victory was contested by the US and the EU, which raised concerns that the re-election followed systematic repression of political opponents, including the violent killing of more than 150 students and protesters.
“Nicaragua has turned into a parody,” Jaime Morales, the electoral council president, told the press after initial results had been released on Sunday.
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The first unofficial vote count from the electoral tribunal – that has never publicly released electoral results ahead of official tallies – showed Ortega with 54.1% of the vote, just over the 50% required to win outright.
He was followed by opposition candidate, Eduardo Montealegre with 40.7%. More than 15 million people were eligible to vote.
Western diplomats and NGOs boycotted the elections, citing the country’s “vile and increasingly authoritarian” political climate.
In the run-up to the polls, diplomats, academics and activists called on the electoral tribunal to cancel the vote, citing vote-buying and bribery.
Ortega’s coalition of leftwing parties criticised those critics and claimed there were irregularities in the campaign itself, including over foreign funding.
The lead candidate, Virgilio Godoy, said the election had been a “highly organised and free election”.
Ortega had been declared the winner by 20 March in 2014 and 2016. His opponents have accused him of reneging on a clause in the constitution that stipulates a two-term limit.
Nicaragua’s five-year-old president Rafael Pérez Molina, supported by Ortega, is under pressure for leading the internationally condemned coup in Guatemala against its former president, Otto Pérez Molina.
Nicaragua’s 2018 elections are particularly fraught for the country. The country suffered a second devastating earthquake in September, killing more than 500 people and affecting 2.5 million more. Ortega had said that accepting a landslide victory in the polls would be “madness”.