Post-electoral violence in Nicaragua
Followers of the indigenous party Yatama clashed with police and supporters of the ruling FSLN in Bilwi (Puerto Cabezas) on Nicaragua's Caribbean coast in the aftermath of contested national elections. Thre police agents were reported injured in the clash, with several arrested and property damaged—including government offices. The march was called Nov. 7, the day after the elections, to demand that the Supreme Electoral Council (CSE) release preliminary results on the local race for national legislative deputy, with Yatama candidate Brooklyn Rivera charging numerous irregularities at the polls. Specifically, he accused the FSLN of using the "ratón loco" (crazy mouse) trick, of bussing supporters around to vote multiple times at various locations. Results for the deputy's race in the North Caribbean Autonomous Region (RACN) have still not been announced, and Bilwi remains tense, with streets patroled by riot police flown in by the national government over the head of the city's Yatama municipal government. (EFE, La Prensa, Nov. 8; La Prensa, Nov. 7; La Prensa, Nov. 6)
Rivera was allowed to run again this time, after previously having been suspended from office on corruption charges. Rivera counter-charged that the case against him was politically motivated due to his outspoken opposition to the government's inter-oceanic canal scheme.
Results in the presidential contest were announced quickly, with Daniel Ortega overwhelmingly winning re-election to a third consecutive term—this time with his wife Rosario Murillo as his vice-presidential candidate. The FSLN's Ortega claimed 72% of the vote, far ahead of his five challengers. A US State Department spokesman said the Ortega government had not invited international election observers, "further degraded the legitimacy of the election." (Al Jazeera, Nov. 8; BBC News, Nov. 7)
There was also controversy over a June decision by the country's Supreme Court of Justice (SCJ), controlled by the FSLN, to remove the leader of of the Independent Liberal Party (PLI), Eduardo Montealegre—a longtime leading opponent of Ortega. The court ordered him replaced by Pedro Reyes Vallejos, a softer PLI figure thought to have been chosen by Ortega. The ruling was widely criticized by international observers and the Catholic church. A statement signed by the Bishops of the Episcopal Conference warned that "any attempt to create conditions for the implementation of a single-party regime in which ideological diversity and political parties disappeared is harmful to the country."
Then, in August, the SCJ ordered the removal of 28 sitting PLI deputies who did not accept the leadership of Reyes. The PLI, formerly a main opposition party, was thrown into chaos by the moves, and its candidate came in last among the six presidential contenders, winning only 4.5% of the vote. (NicaNotes, Nov. 7; TeleSur, Nov. 6; WPR, Nov. 3; PanamPost, Aug. 1; The Guardian, June 26)
Montealegre was Ortega's main rival in the 2006 elections that returned him to power for the first time since the 1980s. Montealegre later led the opposition to a 2014 constitutional reform that removed presidential term limits and the requirement that a presidential candidate must win an outright majority. The left-populist Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) has also split, with breakaway parties accusing Ortega of authoritarianism. Under Ortega's new rule, Nicaragua has seen repeated electoral disputes, both at the national and municipal level, while the Caribbean region has grown increasingly restive.