US expresses concern over Nicaragua's 'flawed' election

Daniel Ortega, Nicaragua's current president and presidential candidate from the ruling Sandinista National Liberation Front, holds hands with his wife and vice presidental candidate Rosario Murillo after casting their vote at a polling station durin
Daniel Ortega, Nicaragua's current president and presidential candidate from the ruling Sandinista National Liberation Front, holds hands with his wife and vice presidental candidate Rosario Murillo after casting their vote at a polling station during Nicaragua's presidential election in Managua on Nov 6, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - The United States is "deeply concerned" by the flawed electoral process in Nicaragua, a State Department spokesman said on Monday (Nov 7), a day after former Marxist guerrilla Daniel Ortega clinched a third consecutive term as president of the Central American country.

"The United States is deeply concerned by the flawed presidential and legislative electoral process in Nicaragua, which precluded the possibility of a free and fair election on (Sunday)," spokesman Mark Toner said in a statement.

He accused the Ortega government of sidelining opposition candidates and limiting local monitoring at polls, and for not inviting international election observers, which Toner said"further degraded the legitimacy of the election."

"We continue to press the Nicaraguan government to uphold democratic practices including press freedom and respect for universal human rights in Nicaragua," Toner added.

The 70-year-old Ortega, who ran with his wife, Rosario Murillo, as vice president, received 72.5 per cent of vote, with 99.8 per cent of polling stations counted, according to the latest results.

Opponents accused Ortega of trying to set up a "family dictatorship" after his Sandinistas pushed constitutional changes through Congress that ended presidential term limits in 2014.

Ortega and US President Barack Obama have maintained a relatively cordial relationship, although the Nicaraguan leader accused Washington of "interference" in September after Congress passed the Nica Act, which conditions US funding to Nicaragua on progress in democracy, human rights and anti-corruption efforts.