MANAGUA – The polls closed at 6 p.m. on Sunday in Nicaragua’s national elections, in which President Daniel Ortega is favored to win reelection to a fourth term.
Authorities said that election day transpired normally and with normal voter attendance, although opposition parties claimed that there was “massive” voter abstention.
The vote count commenced upon the closure of the polls and the president of the Supreme Electoral Council, Roberto Rivas, said that the first official figures would be released between 9 pm and 9:30 p.m.
Ortega and his wife, Rosario Murillo, who is running for vice president, voted in Managua just 12 minutes before the polls closed.
Running in the general elections were six presidential candidates, including incumbent Ortega.
Some 4.34 million people were eligible to cast ballots in the general elections, choosing a new president, vice president, 90 National Assembly members and 20 Central American Parliament, or Parlacen, members.
The 70-year-old Ortega was expected to win re-election, with an M&R Consultores poll released last week showing him with 69.8 percent support among likely voters.
Maximino Rodriguez, a former guerrilla who was running as the candidate of the opposition Constitutionalist Liberal Party, or PLC, had the support of 8.1 percent of likely voters in the poll.
Ortega, leader of the Sandinista National Liberation Front, or FSLN, is seeking his fourth term overall as Nicaragua’s president and third consecutive term in office.
The elections “are taking place normally across the national territory,” army chief Gen. Julio Cesar Aviles told reporters earlier in the day.
However, opposition leaders with the Democratic Broad Front, which was not competing in the elections, said that voter abstention “has been massive,” claiming that it shows “the rejection of the electoral farce.”
“We’ve calculated 70 to 80 percent” absenteeism, “including in municipalities where traditionally” the FSLN “has had a majority,” said former vice presidential candidate for the main opposition party, Violeta Granera, at a press conference.
Granera said that voter participation had been the lowest in any election in Nicaragua “in the last 30 years.”
The campaign chief for the ALN opposition party’s vice presidential candidate, David Salazar, told EFE that voter abstention a few hours before the polls closed “is unprecedented and worrying,” calculating it to be – at that time – about 60 percent.
The election was held amid criticism from the opposition in the wake of officials’ decision to ban observers and keep the main opposition party from competing for the presidency.
The other candidates running for president are evangelical minister Saturnino Cerrato, of the Nicaraguan Liberal Alliance, or ALN; rancher Jose del Carmen Alvarado, of the Independent Liberal Party, or PLI; attorney Erick Cabezas, of the Conservative Party, or PC; and Carlos Canales, of the Alliance for the Republic, or APRE.
The government deployed 13,000 National Police officers and 10,000 soldiers to provide security during the general elections.