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Ortega seeks re-election in Nicaragua vote

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega is seeking a fourth consecutive term in elections against a field of little-known candidates while those who could have given him a real challenge sit in jail.

The opposition has called on Nicaraguans to stay home in protest of an electoral process that has been roundly criticised as not credible by foreign powers.

Sunday’s election will determine who holds the presidency for the next five years, as well as 90 of the 92 seats in the country’s congress and Nicaragua’s representation in the Central American Parliament.

Ortega’s Sandinista Front and its allies control the congress and all government institutions.

Ortega first served as president from 1985 to 1990, before returning to power in 2007. He recently declared his wife first lady and Vice-President Rosario Murillo “co-president”.

In June, police arrested seven potential presidential challengers on charges that essentially amount to treason. Some two dozen other opposition leaders were also swept up before the elections.

The other contenders on Sunday’s ballot are little-known politicians from minor parties seen as friendly with Ortega’s Sandinista Front.

With the election result in little doubt, focus is turning to what the international response will be as Ortega seeks to tighten his grip on power.

The United States and European Union have imposed sanctions against Ortega’s inner circle, but Ortega responded only by arresting more of his opponents.

The US government has indicated it is willing to consider additional targeted sanctions, but wants to avoid measures that would more broadly affect the Nicaraguan people.

The Organization of American States has condemned Nicaragua’s holding of political prisoners and unwillingness to hold free and fair elections, but Ortega’s government has only railed against foreign interference.

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