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Ortega leads with 40 per cent in early results
epa00856595 Supporters of Nicaraguan presidential candidate Daniel Ortega of the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) celebrate the firsts official results of Sunday's presidential election, in Managua, Nicaragua, early Monday 06 November 2006. Leftist Sandinista presidential candidate Ortega was leading the presidential election with 40.85 per cent of the votes, according to partial results released Monday by the Supreme Electoral Council. EPA/MARIO LOPEZ
Managua - Sandinista presidential candidate Daniel Ortega led the presidential election in Nicaragua with 40.1 per cent of the votes according to early partial results released Monday.
Former president Ortega held close to a 7-point lead over his closest rival with just over 40 per cent of the country's 11,274 polling stations reporting, according to the Supreme Electoral Council.
Eduardo Montealegre, candidate of the right-wing Liberal Alliance, polled 32.7 per cent of votes in the preliminary count of Sunday's election. Another rightist candidate, Jose Rizo of the Liberal Party, was running third with 20.3 per cent.
To win the election outright in the first round, Ortega needs to receive more than 40 per cent of the vote, or between 35 and 40 per cent with at least a 5-point advantage over the second-placed candidate. If the lead candidate does not meet either of those criteria, a runoff between the top two finishers would be held within 45 days.
Two other leftist candidates, Edmundo Jarquín of the breakaway Sandinista Renewal Movement (MRS), and Eden Pastora on the Alternative for Change ticket, received just 7.5 per cent and 0.3 per cent, respectively.
Ortega, leader of the Sandinista National Liberation Front, which governed the country from 1979-1990, was leading in ten of the country's 16 provinces, according to the preliminary results.
The private civic group Etica y Transparencia predicted on Monday that Ortega will win the presidential election without the need for a runoff.
The group's chairman Roberto Courtney said he believes the Sandinistas' victory 'is final' and said a quick count carried out by his group gave Ortega 38.9 per cent of the vote. His closest rival, Montealegre, obtained just over 29 per cent in the group's count.
The preliminary results unleashed celebrations by Ortega's supporters, who poured out into the streets of Managua shooting off fire crackers and hooting the horns of their cars.
Montealegre told CNN that there were 'anomalies' in the election and said he will wait until the results are complete.
'We are getting ready to go to a second round,' he said. 'The important thing here is that we count every ballot and every ballot box so that everyone is calm and we can keep deepening the democratic process in Nicaragua.'
However, former sandinista and Contra leader Pastora accepted Ortega's victory on Monday.
'The one that the people wanted has won, the people voted and decided,' Pastora said.
Israel Lewites, the spokesman of Jarquin's MRS, also said that the latest results reflect 'a real tendency of the will of the Nicaraguan people.' Lewites said that some of the coalition's votes 'got lost' in the count, but stressed that 'it would be totally unfair to say there was a fraud.'
Sunday's election was the most closely monitored in Nicaragua's history, with more than 17,000 local and international observers.
The head of the Organization of American States (OAS) mission, which sent 200 observers to the Central American country, said on Monday that the election was fair.
Sunday's election 'was peaceful, orderly, with high turnout and in accordance with the law,' Gustavo Fernandez said.
Ortega, who served as president from 1985-90, is seeking a chance to govern the small Central American country in peacetime, 16 years after his first stormy presidency was marked by a civil war that left more than 50,000 people dead.
He lost power in a 1989 election and is in his fourth consecutive attempt to win a return to the office.
Ortega, 60, appears to have been the intended beneficiary of a new change in electoral laws - approved after a legislative deal between the Sandinistas and Liberal Party - lowering the requirement for a first-round victory from 50 per cent to 35 per cent.
Many analysts had said Ortega could not win 50 per cent in the three-way race, and that he would likely lose a two-way runoff if the opposition, now divided between two right-wing candidates, joined to defeat him.