Managua, Nov 7 (EFE).- Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, running for a fourth consecutive term, said Sunday during the country’s nationwide vote that the citizens were choosing between peace and terrorism, which he said was being fomented by the opposition, whom he excluded from the general election, including the seven presidential hopefuls who had hoped to become the long-time leftist leader’s main rivals.
After casting his ballot along with his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, who is also running for reelection, Ortega offered remarks broadcast on television and radio in which he attacked the imprisoned opposition candidates and those in exile, as well as the protests that broke out against his government in April 2018.
“We’re holding these elections, and are certain that in this battle, which is an historic battle, the decision is between terrorism, confrontation, war or peace,” Ortega said at the House of the Peoples.
In an unusual move, the president issued his call to voters on election day, which during the first seven hours after the polls opened initially were said to have transpired calmly – although subsequent reports claimed that hundreds of violent incidents had occurred.
What was certain, however, was the low voter turnout, in contrast to the forecasts by the governing Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), which had predicted a massive show of support for the regime.
The opposition, Nicaraguans in exile and the Mothers of April Association, which gathers relatives of the victims of the social turmoil in 2018, launched campaigns urging the public not to vote, saying that to do so “would be to legitimize the Ortega-Murillo dictatorship.”
The opposition were using the hashtags YoNoBotoMiVoto, YoNoVoto and NicaraguaNoVota, among others, to urge Nicaraguans not to leave their homes on Sunday, to keep their doors closed and the streets empty, saying that “there’s nobody to vote for” and that the whole election process is a “farce.”
“Here is the vote, the vote not to kill anyone, the vote not to injure anyone, the vote not to call for terrorism, for war, never, the vote not to … paralyze the economy and to destroy families, the vote not to call publicly for torture,” Ortega said, criticizing the opposition’s efforts to ensure low voter turnout.
In his message, the president noted the violence at the 2018 anti-government demonstrations and insisted on blaming the United States, the country he thanked minutes after that for donating anti-Covid-19 vaccine to Nicaragua.
Ortega, in defending Nicaragua’s election process, noted the assault on the US Capitol last January.
“In the United States, that process is open, and they have the full right to open (court) proceedings against terrorism, as we Nicaraguans have the right to open such proceedings against terrorists, because they were conspiring, because they did not want these elections … to be held,” he said.
Ortega said that Nicaragua has been committed to holding elections since 1984, and since then the country has held 49 elections of various kinds, including presidential, municipal and regional votes, in which Nicaraguans have selected their president, vice president, provincial and national lawmakers, as well as Central American Parliament lawmakers, mayors and other local officials.
The opposition National Blue and White Unity accused Ortega of violating the Election Law by trying to influence the decision of voters on the day of the election, when “electoral silence” is supposed to be observed by any and all candidates.
“Dictator Daniel Ortega, once again, is violating the Election Law, politically proselytizing during the electoral silence (period),” said the National Unity on the social networks.
In Washington, US President Joe Biden on Sunday called the Nicaraguan balloting a “pantomime” election and threatened to use “all diplomatic and economic tools at our disposal to support the people of Nicaragua and hold accountable the Ortega-Murillo government and those that facilitate its abuses.”
“What Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, orchestrated today was a pantomime election that was neither free nor fair, and most certainly not democratic,” the US leader said in a statement released by the White House.
Meanwhile, the Urnas Abiertas (Open Polls) observatory reported Sunday that it had detected some 200 irregularities in the voting activities, saying that in the first five hours of voting there were 200 acts of “political violence” at precincts around the country, including “denial of entry to opposition (members), intimidation by parastate (members) and Sandinista shock forces,” along with “state workers obligated to send (to the authorities) a photo of their ballot with their name written (on the signature line).”
Observatory representative Olga Valle said that two “journalists with the independent Masaya Al Dia media outlet were detained and released while providing coverage” of the election, adding that “cases of monitoring around polling centers … where a count was being made of who went to the polls” especially designed to note the presence of “public workers, police and parastate (workers).”
The report also made mention to visits by FSLN militants to private homes in neighborhoods to “ascertain whether people had gone to vote,” as well as “threats” allegedly to see to it that regime supporters turned out to cast their ballots.
More than 4.4 million Nicaraguans were eligible to vote for president, vice president, 90 National Assembly lawmakers and 20 Central American Parliament legislators.