Managua: President Daniel Ortega appeared
poised on Sunday for re-election to a controversial third term as
polls opened in Nicaragua pitting the former Sandinista rebel
leader against a weakened opposition.
Election monitors from the Organization of American
States region bloc indicated that early voting was calm. Small
groups of anti-Ortega activists burned tires, but no major
incidents of violence were reported.
At least 15 protesters and two policemen were injured
yesterday when supporters of Ortega and his main rival Fabio
Gadea clashed in the town of Sebaco, 55 miles (90 kilometers)
from the capital Managua.
Ortega, who won a second five-year term in 2006, has
presided over a period of strong economic growth in Central
America`s largest and poorest nation, but opponents fear his
lengthening tenure is becoming increasingly dictatorial.
Tension has risen in Nicaragua since a Supreme Court
ruling in November 2009 cleared the way for the 65-year-old
former revolutionary to seek re-election to a third term.
Consecutive re-elections were supposedly banned.
Ortega, who was first elected president of the nation of
almost six million back in 1984, has been a central figure
since leading a Marxist guerrilla movement to oust dictator
Anastasio Somoza in 1979.
US president Ronald Reagan accused the Sandinista
National Liberation Front of fostering revolutionary movements
in the region and Ortega was voted out of power in 1990 after
a civil war against US-backed Contra rebels.