Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Bolanos Win Opens New Doors for Nicaragua ; Nicaragua's Elections on Sunday Brought to a Close the Careers of Two Longtime Strongmen

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Bolanos Win Opens New Doors for Nicaragua ; Nicaragua's Elections on Sunday Brought to a Close the Careers of Two Longtime Strongmen

Article excerpt

Managua, Nicaragua

Firecrackers sizzled in the humid, sun-drenched air as supporters of conservative businessman Enrique Bolanos drove victory laps on Managua's streets. In elections that drove record numbers of voters to the polls Sunday, Nicaraguans voted to put the past behind them. In the end, candidate Daniel Ortega - who led the Sandinista revolution to victory in 1979 and ruled a Soviet-backed regime for a decade - was soundly defeated.

Victory was sweet for many Nicaraguans, some of whom stood in line for seven hours to cast their votes. But far more interesting than the winners in this electoral race, some say, are the losers. It Some say it may be the end of an era for the nation's two political strongmen, or caudillos. Outgoing President Arnoldo Aleman, and Mr. Ortega made a pact between their parties, the Liberal Constitutional Party and the Sandinista National Liberation Front, that reformed the Constitution, making it extremely difficult for third parties to gain a foothold. And key posts were divided up along partisan lines. Those laws are expected to be among the first to change.

"The win has had an effect on two caudillos specifically - Aleman and Ortega - but it also will have an effect on caudillo politics in general," says Alejandro Serrano, a politics professor at various Nicaraguan universities. "The results reflect voters' desire to look for new electoral options and will bring about a more democratic opening in both parties."

Bolanos served a partial term as vice president to Aleman, before resigning to run for president himself. But, throughout his campaign, Bolanos tried to separate himself from Aleman, whose administration has been widely criticized for corruption. After learning the results of the race, he repeated a campaign promise to go after corruption. Some believe Aleman will be first on his list.

"Enrique Bolanos is really a political outsider in the Liberal Party, and he has surrounded himself with well-respected newcomers without history in politics," says Mignone Vega, of the Managua think tank Fundemos. "There are a lot of people in the Liberal Party who are against how Aleman has managed the party. …

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