How Ortega Took the Suspense Out of Nicaragua’s Presidential Election

How Ortega Took the Suspense Out of Nicaragua’s Presidential Election
Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and first lady Rosario Murillo during a rally, Managua, Nicaragua, July 19, 2015 (AP photo by Esteban Felix).

In a few days, voters will cast their ballots in a presidential election that has been marked by such unimaginable developments that if it were a work of fiction, publishers would reject it as far too implausible. No, we’re not talking about the United States. This election will take place in Nicaragua on Nov. 6. And we can already predict with absolute certainty that Daniel Ortega will be elected president. Again.

Ortega’s name became known around the world in the 1980s as a leader of the Sandinista National Liberation Front, a Marxist guerrilla group that toppled Nicaragua’s four-decade-long Somoza family dictatorship. Since coming to power, the former Marxist rebel’s ideology has taken an idiosyncratic twist, blending elements of capitalism, populism, new age spirituality and, above all, the tendencies of an autocrat whose paramount objective is to remain in power.

As has become customary for modern autocrats, Ortega tries to preserve a democratic patina on his rule. Next week’s election will mark the seventh time he runs for president, after having ruled the country from 1979 to 1985 as head of the junta. He first held the presidency from 1985 until 1990, and returned in 2007. His upcoming victory will give him a third consecutive term. Over the years he had term limits removed, as well as the requirement that he win a majority to take office. A simple plurality of 40 percent will now suffice, and even 35 percent will do if no other candidate comes within 5 percentage points of him.

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