By Ramón Alvarez and Cristina Espinosa, BBC Latin America Correspondents
A total of 10 candidates are in contention to lead Nicaragua Some 10 million people voted in Nicaragua’s presidential elections on Sunday, which international observers say was tainted by widespread irregularities and biased coverage by state media. The main opposition coalition, the Sandinista Renovation Movement (MRS), has accused President Daniel Ortega of a massive “manipulation” of the results. Dr Ortega’s followers, however, say the elections were not marred by any irregularities. There were no reports of major clashes between rival groups of voters. Enthusiasm levels Dr Ortega has to be elected to a third consecutive term, after winning the 1988 and 2006 elections. He won 88% of the vote in 2006 and a similar percentage on Sunday. The president has been in charge since 1979 and has used his position to accumulate power, leading calls from the International Monetary Fund and UN for an end to “interference” in Nicaragua’s politics. The final official vote count had Ortega with 55.1% of the vote, his closest rival, Luis Guillermo Solis of the Democratic Opposition Alliance (ADO), had 14.6%, and Micheline Calvo Fortuna of the Republic Alliance had 11.8%. But the MRS saw major irregularities, including a mistake in counting the votes, disqualification of some voters, official actions which encouraged the use of the state-controlled election registry and the use of state media to boost Ortega’s role. “We know that the errors were systematic,” says Rolando Figueroa, from the MRS. ‘I feel in control’ The MRS, which was a member of the National Commission of Observers (CONACY), wants the United Nations to re-evaluate the vote count. Its protests brought the majority of the 1,000-member verification body, held in the country’s capital, Managua, to its knees. Its president, Miguel German, read the commission’s first statement from the floor, as nine members dropped to their knees. Dr Ortega has used his position to accumulate power He added: “It’s very difficult for me to act as if this institution has existed for 40 years and then when a president from the same country wants to eliminate the institution from the electoral process, that institution collapses. “The world is the same and the same process, the same logic, the same institutional building. I feel in control.” After the debate, hundreds of people angry with Mr German started protesting in the streets. Protest leader Angel Alvarez said: “This was a huge fraud and so much evidence was presented that CONACY has to be reconvened.” Under the Nicaraguan constitution, the president is required to form a new coalition once he or she has been re-elected. The presidential election will be followed by legislative elections on 3 June.
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