MANAGUA – Nicaraguans are heading to the polls Sunday to elect a new president, with incumbent Daniel Ortega seen as the favorite to win a controversial re-election.
Voters will also be electing a new vice president, 90 National Assembly members and 20 Central American Parliament, or Parlacen, representatives.
Polls ahead of the vote indicated that Ortega, of the Sandinista party, was the favorite to win, but his candidacy has been labeled illegal by the opposition because of legal maneuvers that he employed to get around the constitutional ban on re-election.
The Nicaraguan Constitution prohibits immediate re-election, but Sandinista magistrates on the Supreme Court declared the article dealing with re-election to not be applicable, opening the door to Ortega’s candidacy.
Ortega, who was drawing the support of 48 percent of likely voters and had an 18-point over his nearest rival, businessman Fabio Gadea, appears headed for a win in the first round of voting.
The nearly 80-year-old Gadea, a member of Independent Liberal Party, or PLI, and former President Arnoldo Aleman, who governed Nicaragua from 1997 to 2002, are the two main candidates challenging Ortega in the splintered opposition.
National Assembly member Enrique Quiñonez and academic Roger Guevara are the other two candidates.
The polls opened at 7:00 a.m. and are scheduled to close at 6:00 p.m., with some 3.4 million people eligible to cast ballots.