Voters are going to the polls on Sunday in the Central American nation of Nicaragua, where former President Daniel Ortega of the Sandinista National Liberation Front is in a close race against former Vice President Enrique Bolanos of the Liberal Party. The closeness of the race has raised tensions, but international observers see little chance of a disputed outcome.
The last public opinion polls taken before the end of campaigning showed a statistical tie between the two major presidential candidates, but diehard supporters on each side dismiss the possibility of defeat. More than 6,000 soldiers in full battle gear are on the roads and streets of the nation to back up police in maintaining order during the electoral process.
There have been persistent rumors that President Arnoldo Aleman might declare a state of emergency if there are clashes between partisan groups either during or after the voting. Daniel Ortega sees no need for such action. He said in this election the country has shown tolerance and a civic culture and he says there is no need to even consider imposing a state of emergency. The Sandinista candidate said President Aleman might take such a step in order to annul the election if he sees an Ortega victory in sight.
President Aleman said he will only take extraordinary action if it is necessary. He said he has called on the army and police to prevent any act that might disrupt the election and that he will apply the law to protect the nation.
But former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, who heads a delegation of international observers, said it would be unacceptable to declare a state of emergency unless there really is an emergency. "Just because there is a close vote, if there is not massive violence on the street, there is no reason to declare an actual emergency," said Mr. Carter.
Mr. Carter said he and other international observers have confidence in the electoral system and a separate, quick count being conducted by an independent civic organization. He said that even if the vote count is so close that it takes more than a day to complete, he thinks Nicaraguans will be patient and that they will accept the final result. Although an official final count may not be available until Tuesday, Mr. Carter said the quick count result may be known by early Monday.