Image: Nicaragua elections
Esteban Felix  /  AP
A supporter of the ruling Sandinista National Liberation Front party, FSLN, fires homemade mortars into the air while waiting for a final report of the mayoral elections during a demonstration in front of the Supreme Electoral Council, in Managua, on Thursday.
updated 11/21/2008 4:16:36 AM ET 2008-11-21T09:16:36

Nicaragua's ruling Sandinista party won the large majority of municipal races, including the capital Managua, in local elections that have sparked violent clashes and allegations of fraud, authorities announced Thursday.

The electoral council said the leftist Sandinistas won 105 of 146 races in nationwide municipal elections held Nov. 9, while the opposition Liberal Constitutional Party won 37, and smaller parties took the remaining four.

Thousands of Sandinista supporters carrying the party's red-and-black flag and homemade rocket launchers who had gathered outside the council's building cheered wildly when the announcement was made.

"The people's will has been respected," said council President Roberto Rivas.

Rivas said Sandinista candidate and three-time boxing world champion Alexis Arguello won Managua's mayor race.

But the opposition has charged the vote was fraudulent and international monitors were not permitted to observe the elections.

'Reopening deep wounds'
A march to the capital by Liberal party supporters on Tuesday to protest alleged fraud was blocked by Sandinistas armed with sticks and rocks, producing wild melees that left several people injured.

Nicaragua's Roman Catholic bishops said the clashes were "reopening deep wounds" from the 1980s, when the U.S.-backed Contra rebels tried to overthrow President Daniel Ortega during his first round as Nicaragua's leader.

Ortega, named president after the Sandinistas toppled dictator Anastasio Somoza in 1979, was forced from office in 1990 after opposition candidate Violeta Chamorro defeated him in nationwide elections.

Radio stations destroyed
More than 20 news reporters have been injured in demonstrations since the Nov. 9 municipal elections, the Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights said in a statement. The center also denounced the destruction of three opposition radio stations.

Earlier Thursday, Nicaragua lambasted the U.S. government and the head of the Organization of American States, accusing both of trying to destabilize Ortega's government by criticizing the local elections.

Both the U.S. State Department and OAS Secretary-General Jose Miguel Insulza have expressed concern over opposition allegations of fraud in the voting.

Appearing before the OAS permanent council in Washington, Nicaraguan OAS ambassador Denis Moncada said Insulza overstepped his authority when weighing in on the dispute.

"It is unheard of that the secretary-general would usurp the state's authority, when neither the government nor the people of Nicaragua have given him that authority," he said.

The U.S. ambassador to the OAS, Hector Morales, responded by saying the region can't ignore antidemocratic practices.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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