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Nicaragua: Bolanos Wins Presidency - 2001-11-06

Former President Daniel Ortega, of the leftist Sandinista National Liberation Front, has conceded defeat in the presidential election held Sunday and congratulated the winner, Enrique Bolanos of the Liberal Party. The difficult challenges facing the Central American nation may require more such political harmony.

A victorious Enrique Bolanos thanked his supporters and campaign workers at rallies on Monday, amidst an atmosphere of celebration. The 73-year-old businessman and former Vice President vowed to fight poverty and corruption and to create more jobs for his people. Earlier, he accepted what observers described as an exceptionally gracious concession and offers of support from Daniel Ortega, who had been defeated for the third consecutive time in a presidential election.

Mr. Ortega promised to continue working for national reconciliation and an improved economy, from within the countrys National Assembly. The former president also praised the high voter turnout on Sunday as a sign of the nation´s advanced civic culture.

International observers criticized some of the inefficiencies in the election system, but said that it had worked well overall. Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, who headed one team of observers here, says now that the election is over, the political rivals need to cooperate for the good of their country. "I think, at this moment, the most convincing demonstration was the embrace and mutual pledge of respect and support that I saw this afternoon between Ortega and Bolanos," said Mr. Carter. "My hope is, and my expectation is, that the leaders of the two parties, major parties, will make every effort to work together in the next administration. This will be good for the people of Nicaragua."

Nicaragua is one of the poorest nations in the Americas and is burdened with $6 billion in foreign debt. More than 70 percent of the population lives in poverty and 44 percent of the nation´s workforce is unemployed. The challenge for the Bolanos government will be to tackle these problems, in cooperation with Mr. Ortega and the substantial minority of people who voted for him.