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Ortega likely to win 3rd term in Nicaragua

From Samantha Lugo, For CNN
updated 8:35 PM EST, Sun November 6, 2011
President Daniel Ortega is running in his sixth straight presidential race after being re-elected in 2006.
President Daniel Ortega is running in his sixth straight presidential race after being re-elected in 2006.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Early results are expected quickly
  • Ortega's opponents are backing two competing candidates
  • Ortega was first elected president in 1985

(CNN) -- Left-leaning Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, leading the polls in a three-man race, looked poised to win re-election on Sunday.

Ortega cast his ballot shortly after polls opened. They closed at 7 p.m. ET , with early results expected Sunday night.

Nicaragua's constitution bars presidents from being re-elected, but that did not stop Ortega from running in his sixth straight presidential race.

He was first elected as president in 1985, and ran unsuccessfully in 1990, 1996 and 2001 before being elected again in 2006.

Ortega is known as an ally of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and was a public supporter of former Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi during the uprising there.

But recently, he has reached for the middle, making overtures to the business class and promising to lure foreign investors into the country.

"Our government program is the one in practice now and the one we have to improve, strengthen (and) develop," Ortega said recently.

For Ortega's backers, continuity will guarantee that social and economic programs will keep on. They want to see more investment in infrastructure, technology and more public housing, projects often financed through Venezuela.

He came to power as part of the Sandinista rebels who overthrew the Somoza dynasty in 1979, and he represents the Sandinista National Liberation Front.

His detractors accuse Ortega of having too much influence over the Supreme Electoral Council and the Supreme Court of Justice, which allowed for his candidacy.

Yet his popular support remains high.

"From my point of view, it has been a good government and we hope to keep working in this way," said one voter, Julio Lara, ahead of the election.

Another voter, Magdalena Miranda said, "I think he has done much to help the poor."

Ortega's closest challenger is Fabio Gadea, who until recently was known as a radio-station owner and journalist, and as creator of the popular Nicaraguan radio character "Pancho Madrigal."

Gadea ran on the Independent Liberal Party, which includes support from former Sandinista backers who in the past may have supported Ortega.

"We have proclaimed that we are going to make an honest government, a revolution of honesty that will end corruption, and with the end of corruption we can start to fix all the problems," Gadea said before the vote.

Those who consider Ortega's candidacy unconstitutional say they found a strong candidate in the 80-year-old Gadea.

"He is the man who all Nicaraguans can confide in to defeat" Ortega's party, resident Marlene Castillo said.

"He is the one who respects our rights, now we don't have fear like before," said Wilfredo Treminio.

Running third in polls ahead of the election was Arnoldo Aleman, a former president who represents another liberal party. But some of those supporters have joined the ranks of Gadea's party.

After leaving office, Aleman was convicted of corruption during his term and sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2003, but in a controversial 2009 decision, the nation's top court overturned the conviction.

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