Nicaragua's Ortega refuses to cancel elections

Other News Materials 22 November 2008 08:35 (UTC +04:00)

President Daniel Ortega moved to quash a legislative proposal by opposition politicians Friday to cancel the results of widely disputed elections, as thousands of Sandinista supporters took to the streets to celebrate the party's victory, The Associated Press reported.

The leftist Sandinistas won 105 of 146 races in nationwide municipal elections held Nov. 9, while the opposition Liberal Constitutional Party won 37, and smaller parties took the remaining four.

The Liberal Constitutional Party is demanding a revision of the results in the presence of international observers and submitted a bill to nullify the elections.

Ortega issued a presidential decree declaring the bill unconstitutional, arguing it violated the separation of powers under which the Sandinista-controlled electoral tribunal has exclusive power to rule on the validity of elections.

"The only national authority with the jurisdiction ... to nullify the elections is the Supreme Electoral Council," the president said, adding that he rejected the initiative "for being notoriously unconstitutional."

Several people have been injured in violent clashes that have erupted amid the fraud charges. The government says voting was fair.

The municipal elections marked Ortega's first major electoral test since reclaiming the presidency in 2006. He returned to power nearly two decades after leading a Marxist government that fought U.S.-backed Contra rebels.

He has come under fire for barring two opposition parties from fielding mayoral candidates and for police raids against non-governmental organizations critical of his administration.

The U.S. State Department has expressed concern about the fraud allegations and the tense atmosphere during the campaign. OAS Secretary-General Jose Miguel Insulza has pointedly noted that the presence of international observers would have been helpful in resolving the elections dispute.