Nicaragua’s ruling Sandinista Front (FSLN) has claimed a decisive victory in the country’s first elections since the revolution five years ago.
Within hours of the count beginning, the leader of the country’s left-wing junta, Daniel Ortega, said he had gained nearly 70% of the vote in the presidential election.
Mr Ortega said his party won a similar share of the vote in the parliamentary election.
Mr Ortega said: “We can already say that the FSLN is the clear winner of these elections by an ample majority.”
The Sandinistas’ nearest rivals have so far polled just 11% of the vote but Nicaragua’s leading right-
wing parties boycotted the ballots.
Turnout was high with an estimated 83% of the country’s 1.5 million-strong electorate casting a vote.
The Sandinistas have been at pains to convince the outside world, especially the US, that the elections were free and fair.
Approximately 400 independent foreign observers, including a number of Americans, were in Nicaragua to monitor proceedings.
The unofficial British election observer, Lord Chitnis, said proceedings were not perfect but he had no doubt the elections were fair.
In 1979 the Sandinistas – named after an assassinated former leader of Nicaragua – ousted long-time dictator Anastasio Somoza.
The Sandinistas have been at odds with the US ever since, especially since the superpower began assisting the party’s main opponents, the Contras.
The Contras, based in neighbouring Honduras, are engaged in a guerrilla war aimed at ousting the Sandinista Front.
Courtesy BBC News
In spite of the Sandinista victory being declared fair the United States continued to oppose the left-wing Nicaraguan government.
It increased its military activity in the region prompting fears in Nicaragua of an invasion.
Eventually the US backed off but, unhappy at Nicaragua’s ties with the Soviet Union, continued to fund the anti-Sandinista rebels, the Contras.
However, during 1987-1988 the Nicaraguan leadership held talks and signed a peace agreement with the Contras.
During elections in 1990 a US-backed centre-right National Opposition Union defeated the Sandinistas, ending their decade-long spell in power.