Nicaragua's Ortega: No dramatic changes in store

AP News
Posted: Nov 08, 2011 11:02 PM
Nicaragua's Ortega: No dramatic changes in store

Newly re-elected President Daniel Ortega said Tuesday there won't be any dramatic changes in his new administration and that he will continue taking Nicaragua on a path that is "Christian, socialist and in solidarity."

In his first public speech since his landslide win in Sunday's presidential election, the one-time Sandinista revolutionary discarded major policy changes in his second consecutive term in office.

"Why change if we're doing a good job," said the onetime firebrand Marxist who in recent years has espoused a politics of personality based on Christianity, socialism and free enterprise.

Electoral council President Roberto Rivas officially declared Ortega the winner on Tuesday, though the incumbent president had a 63 percent to 31 percent lead over his nearest rival with 86 percent of the votes counted on Monday.

"He has officially been declared the president of the republic," Rivas told Radio Ya, calling the margin of victory unprecedented in Nicaragua.

But complaints of voting irregularities by local and international groups continued.

A team from the European Union said in a news release Tuesday that the vote was directed "by electoral authorities that were not completely independent nor impartial and who didn't fulfill their duty of transparency and of collaborating with all parties."

The team said the electoral council showed bias by allowing the people overseeing several polling places to come from only Ortega's Sandinista Party.

The Nicaraguan American Chamber of Commerce said in a statement that many anomalies were observed in "a non-transparent process."

The chamber, however, congratulated the Nicaraguan people for "exercising their civic right despite the limitations known by all."

Since returning to power in 2007, the 65-year-old Ortega has boosted his popularity in Central America's poorest country with a combination of pork-barrel populism and support for the free-market economy he once opposed.

His opponents feared that if Ortega wins with a clear majority, he would be able to change the constitution to legitimize the Supreme Court ruling and pave the way to becoming president for life.

Ortega has dismissed such charges as scare tactics, and said the results would indicate the Nicaraguans are now voting "without fear."

Ortega led the Sandinista movement that overthrew dictator Anastasio Somoza in 1979, and withstood a concerted effort by the U.S. government, which viewed him as a Soviet-backed threat, to oust him through a rebel force called the Contras.