Written by Staff Writer by Joel Gehrke, CNN
Venezuelan-born former Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega won the Nicaragua presidential election in a landslide on Sunday, according to initial results.
Ortega’s victory comes after more than three decades as the country’s president, but after winning only 30% of the vote in 2016 amid a recount and a massive effort by opponents to mobilize voters.
More than 2.2 million votes for Ortega were cast this year, a 17% increase from 2016, with his two main opponents receiving only 330,000 votes combined, according to preliminary data from the National Elections Council.
Ortega — who turns 80 on Monday — first came to power in 1979 in the Sandinista revolution, though he was ousted by a United States-backed counter-revolutionary government during the so-called Contra War.
In a statement on its website Sunday, the Election Council rejected international calls for a recount in the election, saying that the election “is and will be complete.”
The council continued to review thousands of provisional ballots cast over the weekend, and Vice President Carlos Osorio told CNN Sunday that Ortega has already won with more than 60% of the votes.
Nicaragua’s electoral system is used to elect each of the country’s 40-member Senate and 84 members of the Lower House of Congress.
In a statement late Sunday, the Organization of American States said the election had been characterized by “polling processes, the election administration, the candidate selection process and the voter lists” that were “seriously deficient” and didn’t meet the democratic standards needed to hold a legitimate vote.
Following the results, Nicaragua’s opposition candidate Eduardo Montealegre called the election a “farce” and said Sunday that “prolonged, violence-filled rhetoric and processes of intimidation have failed to influence Nicaraguan voters.”
Representatives of Spain, which has been a close partner of Nicaragua, said that President-elect Ortega had ignored “serious concerns” about the elections.
“This latest electoral cycle has been characterized by an environment that was singularly hostile to participating in it and one that consistently denied the freedom of expression that is a fundamental right for all,” said Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Gonzalo de Echave of Spain.
The United States said it was “deeply disappointed” in the election results and vowed that it will continue to closely monitor the situation.
“The United States joins the international community in strongly expressing the need for Nicaragua’s leaders to reflect on the institutional and democratic shortcomings that have resulted in this outcome and to address these concerns through a constructive dialogue,” the State Department said in a statement Sunday.