Sandinista Ortega wins Nicaragua presidency
MANAGUA, Nicaragua (Agence France-Presse)—FormerColdWar foe of the United States Daniel Ortega has won Nicaragua’s presidential election, resuming leadership of a country he once led in a bloody civil war against U.S.-backed Contra rebels, officials said late on Nov. 7.
In results handed down by the SupremeElectoralCouncil,Mr.Ortega, 60, won the Nov. 5 election outright, avoiding a difficult runoff vote against conservative rival Eduardo Montealegre, who conceded defeat.
“TheresultsfavorDanielOrtega, whom I’ve called to congratulate,” Mr. Montealegre, of the National Liberal Alliance, said in a speech conceding defeat.
“He has been elected democraticallyandwillhavetogovernso,”Mr. Montealegre added, hinting at Mr. Ortega’s past as president of Nicaragua’s leftist Sandinista government from 1979 to 1990.
“His actions as president will have our support or our repudiation,” he said.
An Organization of American States observer mission said the voting was “peaceful, massive and orderly, and was conducted in accordance with the law.”
Mr. Ortega, of the reformed Sandinista Party, has since traded his Marxist policies for a more liberal political agenda.
He won 38 percent of the vote, with 91 percent of voting precincts counted, the council said. He needed to secure at least 35 percent of the vote and a five-point lead on his closest rival to avoid a runoff.
Mr. Montealegre came in second with 29 percent of the vote, followed by Jose Rizo, also a conservative, of the Liberal Constitutionalist Party, with 26 percent.
Pundits think a runoff between Mr. Ortega and Mr. Montealegre would have been difficult to predict, because the conservative vote would not have been split.
Guatemalan President Oscar Berger was the first international leader to applaud Mr. Ortega’s victory.
“We respect the will of the Nicaraguan people and congratulate Daniel Ortega,” he told reporters in Guatemala City.
Cuban President Fidel Castro, onceastaunchsupporteroftheSandinista administration, also congratulated Mr. Ortega for his “grandiose victory.”
Throughoutthecampaign,Washington had urged Nicaraguans to defeat Mr. Ortega, whose Sovietbacked Sandinista government seized private assets, distributed land to poor peasants and battled U.S.-financedContrarebelsthroughout the 1980s.
He reiterated on Nov. 6 that if elected, he would respect private property and said Nicaragua wants to improve relations with the international community.
“I want to work with those who have more — business leaders, bankers — to eradicate poverty,” he told journalists on Nov. 7 after meeting here with former President Jimmy Carter.
Mr. Carter, who monitored the vote, later told CNN that key Nicaraguan business and finance leadershehadmetwere“allwilling to give the Sandinistas a chance.”
TheWhiteHousesaidwarilylate onNov.7thatitwouldworkwithMr. Ortega.
“The United States is committed to the Nicaraguan people. We will work with their leaders based on their commitment to and actions in support of Nicaragua’s democratic future,” said national security spokesman Gordon Johndroe.
He’s back: Nicaraguan candidate Daniel Ortega of the Sandinista National Liberation Front addresses supporters in Managua Nov. 7 after being proclaimed the country’s next president.