Observers from the European Union and the Organization of American States reported Sunday that they had detected serious irregularities in voting in what is expected to be a re-election victory for Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega. Ortega, a onetime leftist guerrilla leader and acolyte of Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, is seeking his third term in office despite the Nicaraguan Constitution’s ban on presidents serving consecutive terms.
Voting was marred by scattered violence, including reports of gunfire that wounded four people near the coffee-growing city of Matagalpa and arson attacks on several rural precincts. Elsewhere, voting occurred without incident as Nicaragua’s 3.4 million voters aged 16 and older cast ballots for president, vice president and 90 deputies of the National Assembly. Even so, chiefs of the two major international observer teams in Nicaragua for the election voiced deep reservations about how the vote was conducted.
Luis Yanez, a Spanish legislator who heads a European Union delegation, said 20 of the group’s 90 observers faced “inexplicable” difficulties in gaining access to polling stations.
“I don’t understand why there are so many obstacles, so much opacity and so many tricks in a process that should be clean and transparent,” Yanez said, adding that some precincts opened late, blocked opposition election monitors and filed vote tallies that were illegible.
Dante Caputo, a former foreign minister from Argentina who heads an observer mission from the Organization of American States, said obstacles were tantamount to a disavowal by the Ortega government of accords to allow election observers.
At least 10 OAS teams arrived at key precincts around the country where they were to monitor voting and ballot counting only to be told they could not enter, Caputo said.
“We faced a series of difficulties … We were blocked from being where we were supposed to be. This kind of situation has not happened before. It is worrisome,” Caputo said.