Nicaraguans Endure Long Wait to Choose President Nicaraguans waited in long lines Sunday to vote in an election that will decide whether Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega returns to power. All eyes are on candidate Daniel Ortega, the former Marxist revolutionary and ex-president who has rebranded himself as a moderate.
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Nicaraguans Endure Long Wait to Choose President

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Nicaraguans Endure Long Wait to Choose President

Nicaraguans Endure Long Wait to Choose President

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DEBBIE ELLIOTT, host:

Coming up, a new poll just out today shows Republicans making big gains against the Democratic drive to retake Congress. Details in a few moments.

But first, voters in Nicaragua went to the polls today for a presidential election. A Cold War adversary of the United States, former Marxist guerrilla and president Daniel Ortega has a good chance of making a comeback.

NPR's Lourdes Garcia Navarro reports from Managua.

(Soundbite of crowd)

LOURDES GARCIA NAVARRO: It's election day in Nicaragua and I'm at an elementary school in a traditionally Sandinista barrio of Managua. People have come out to vote in pretty large numbers, it looks like today. There are lined in front of the classrooms here where they come in and hand over their voting registration card.

Of course, this election is all about Daniel Ortega, the former Sandinista revolutionary who has now re-branded himself as a moderate looking to heal the very bitter wounds in Nicaragua of ten years of civil strife here in the 1980s.

Standing in front of me is Francisca Aubriage(ph). She's 37 years old and she's just voted. And I'm asking her who she voted for and why.

Ms. FRANCISCA AUBRIAGE (Voter): (Speaking Spanish)

NAVARRO: She's telling me that Ortega is the only person who can change things here after the last 16 years of conservative rule. I think we need to give him a second chance, she says. The last time he was in government was in a time of war. There were many problems, a lot of meddling by other countries, she adds.

We're traveling across town now to a greener and more leafy area that is wholly conservative.

(Soundbite of crowd)

NAVARRO: So I'm now at the Jesuit University in the barrio San Juan. The reason Daniel Ortega might just win this election is that his opposition is divided. The traditional liberal party is fielding candidate Jose Rizo, but Daniel Ortega's main opponent is Eduardo Montealegre.

Mr. NORMAN RAMIREZ (Voter): Norman Ramirez.

NAVARRO: Norman Ramirez tells me that he's voting for Eduardo Montealegre. I think a vote for Ortega is a backwards-looking vote. He says he thinks that Ortega might win, though, because the right is divided. His candidate, Montealegre, split from the main conservative party and Ramirez says that those on the right need to do some tactical voting by backing the man who has the best chance of winning. He says Montealegre.

Ortega needs to get only 35% of the vote and be five points ahead of his nearest rival to win today. The big question is, will he get it? If this goes to a second round, he's unlikely to become president. Whoever gets elected will face a daunting task. Nicaragua is the poorest country in Latin America. Eighty percent of the people here live on less than $2.00 a day.

Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, NPR News, Managua.

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