MEXICO CITY (AP) – After an electoral campaign without rallies, demonstrations or even real opposition, Nicaraguans voted in municipal elections yesterday that the governing party hoped would give it near-total control of local governments.
President Daniel Ortega’s party already controls the three branches of the federal government and 141 of Nicaragua’s 153 municipalities, and much like Ortega’s 2021 reelection, the new vote was preceded by arrests and crackdowns on opponents.
Polls have already closed, but it was not clear when results might be announced.
In a report, the civic group Urnas Abiertas, or Open Ballot Boxes, said 17 people had been arrested prior to or during the elections.
The group said voting was carried out “under the absolute control” of President Daniel Ortega’s Sandinista National Liberation Front.
It said government employees were “pressured” to vote and that in 63 per cent of polling places visited, Sandinista party operators were keeping tabs on who had voted. It said there were Sandinista posters or people wearing Sandinista party promotional gear in 41 per cent of the polling places.
The United Nations (UN) office on human rights wrote on Twitter that it was “concerned” about the “arbitrary arrests”, and said “we call on the government to guarantee the political and civic rights of the Nicaraguan people and stop the repression”.
Ortega’s Foreign Minister Denis Moncada told local media the elections “help strengthen the people’s revolutionary democracy”.
But election observer for Urnas Abiertas Ligia Gómez said, “The elections are part of a consolidation of the totalitarian regime of Daniel Ortega.”
She said the group had documented over 700 instances of political violence, including targetted harassment and threats toward candidates or known opposition figures this year.