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Nicaraguans Vote for New President Sunday


In Nicaragua, security forces and election monitors were deployed across the country Sunday to guard against disruptions in presidential electionsthere. VOA's Brian Wagner reports from Managua, former Sandinista President Daniel Ortega had a strong lead going into Sunday's vote.

Police and volunteer guards stood watch at polling stations in Nicaragua's capital, Managua, as voters cast ballots for president. Problems with ballot boxes delayed voting at some sites, forcing some voters to stand in long lines.

One voter, Max Acasa Barrios, complained of delays and a lack of preparation at his polling station in central Managua. He said some ballot boxes were not properly marked in the color of the political parties, and that the voting process was slow. Residents also criticized government officials for problems in obtaining their national identification cards, which are required to vote.

But many voters expressed confidence in the ballot ,and said the voting process has improved since the last poll in 2001. Mercedes Chamorro showed off the brown ink on her thumb, which she received from election workers after casting her ballot to show she has voted. Chamorro said she had heard reports about possible attempts at fraud in the vote, but that she doubted such problems would happen. She said she believes the elections are safe and orderly - more so than in past elections.

Opinion polls showed former President Daniel Ortega was expected to receive the most votes against four other candidates.

The Sandinista leader has pledged to inspire reconciliation and peace, more than 20 years after he seized power in a violent revolution. His key challengers are Harvard-educated former banker Eduardo Montealegre and Liberal Party candidate Jose Rizo. Their campaigns have focused on creating jobs and stimulating the economy.

A candidate with 35 percent of votes and a five-point lead in the first round would be declared winner. If not, a second round will be held in December.

Officials said initial results would be released late Sunday, and a final tally will come on Monday.