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article imageNicaragua kicks off controversial campaign season

By Julia Rios (AFP)     Aug 20, 2016 in Politics

Nicaragua kicked off its presidential election campaign season on Saturday amid opposition calls for a boycott, as the hugely favored President Daniel Ortega seeks a third consecutive term.

A former Sandinista guerilla rebel who has led the Central American nation with an authoritarian hand, the leftist Ortega is running against a fragmented opposition weakened by a court ruling that changed the leadership of a key party and booted many of its deputies from parliament.

Calling on Nicaraguans to boycott the November 6 election — in which the 70-year-old Ortega named his wife as his running mate — the opposition dismissed the vote as a "farce" aimed at allowing the president to start a family dynasty.

Ortega has 79 percent of support among the electorate and Murillo 73 percent, a survey by the M&R polling agency taken between July 27 and August 1 showed.

"Who will win these elections goes without saying," said Yasser Matus, a worker at Managua's vast outdoor market Mercado Oriental. "There is no more to say, the Sandinista Front will continue to govern."

Managua's streets feature giant pictures of Ortega and his wife, Rosario Murillo.

More than 80 percent of Nicaraguans are afraid to express political opinions in public, M&R found in January.

The opposition has called for the Organization of American States, the European Union and the US Carter Center to monitor the vote.

Nicaraguans protest in front of the Supreme Electoral Council (CSE) against the reelection of presid...
Nicaraguans protest in front of the Supreme Electoral Council (CSE) against the reelection of president Daniel Ortega and of his wife Rosario Murillo as vice presidential candidate for the upcoming November election, in Managua, on August 3, 2016
Alfredo Zuniga, AFP/File

Ortega has vowed not to allow international monitors to observe the election, calling them "shameless observers."

Opposition and civil society groups have scheduled protests to demand free and fair elections.

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