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Opponents dispute Nicaraguan election results

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 7:02 AM EST, Thu November 17, 2011
An opponent of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega takes part in a protest in Managua on November 9, 2011.
An opponent of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega takes part in a protest in Managua on November 9, 2011.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Official results say Ortega won reelection with more than 62% of votes
  • Police say protests and clashes throughout the country have left at least four dead
  • The Organization of American States reports irregularities, but ratifies the results
  • A human rights representative says police are behind violence, but police blame protesters

Managua, Nicaragua (CNN) -- Nicaragua's election officials have officially declared President Daniel Ortega's victory, but opponents are protesting the results.

A report from the Organization of American States indicated "irregularities in the elections," but supported official results saying that Ortega won re-election after garnering more than 62% of votes.

"A process is legitimate if the people feel that there wishes were respected, and that is what we are experiencing here," said Roberto Rivas, president of Nicaragua's election authority.

But protests and clashes throughout the country after the November 6 elections have left at least four people dead and dozens injured, police said.

According to a report presented by the Organization of American States' election observers, irregularities during elections included problems providing identification card to vote, problems in the accreditation of observers and imbalances in political parties present at polling stations.

For opponents of Ortega, the report shows evidence of fraud.

"Obviously here transparency is missing. They didn't take a series of legal steps that they should have," said Eduardo Montealegre, a representative from the opposition Independent Liberal Party.

The Organization of American States says its vote count echoes the official election results.

But one local pro-democracy group says the problems the organization identified would equally impact their own tallies.

"It's not that the results changed on the way (to be counted), it's that the absolute power of the councils overseeing the polls did not allow any challenges," said Roberto Bendana, president of We Make Democracy.

Last week U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland weighed in over reports of procedural irregularities and voter intimidation.

"Frankly, if the Nicaraguan government had nothing to hide, it should have allowed a broad complement of international monitors," she told reporters in Washington.

Disputes over the results have caused confrontations between protesters and authorities, said Marcos Carmona, executive secretary of Nicaragua's Permanent Human Rights Commission.

"We have reports from different citizens about aggression on the part of the National Police," he said, including the deaths of a father and two sons.

Last week a National Police spokesman said the three had died during clashes with supporters of Ortega's Sandinista party, adding that protesters had provoked clashes with police.

"As the National Police, we reiterate our call to the activists and directors of the different political parties, to not use violence and to express their positions through civic means, respecting, above all, the lives of others," police spokesman Fernando Borge said.

Ortega was first elected as Nicaragua's president in 1984, and ran unsuccessfully in 1990, 1996 and 2001 before being elected again in 2006.

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

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

His third term is scheduled to begin January 10. But opposition representatives say they plan to dispute election results before international organizations.

Journalist Samantha Lugo and CNN's Fernando del Rincon contributed to this report.

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