Nicaraguans go to the polls today to choose their next president in an election that is causing great concern in the United States. The former Marxist guerrilla, Daniel Ortega, is tipped to win, and his new friendship with Venezuela’s anti-American leader has Washington worried about having another foe close to its doorstep.
His opponents say he will take Nicaragua back to the days of the civil war with US-backed Contra rebels. But Ortega says he has changed from the Sandinista leader who seized property from the wealthy during a 1979 revolution. Thanks to a split in the ruling Liberal Party, Ortega is well ahead of his closest rival, the centre-right candidate Eduardo Montealegre. But he is hoping to stave off a first round defeat and then beat Ortega in a run-off.
The party’s official candidate, Jose Rizo, is looking to cause an upset. However, the former vice-president is well behind Montealegre in the polls. In total, there are five candidates vying to become president. The election will be overseen by 17,000 observers, among them former US President Jimmy Carter and a large contingent from the European Union. Preliminary results will appear late on Sunday but a winner is unlikely to be declared officially until Monday or later.