Mr. Ortega ruled the country from 1979-1990 as a Sandinista dictator. Since winning the presidency in 2006 with 37% of the vote, he has demonstrated that, like his friend Mr. Chávez, he finds institutional checks and balances on his power rather inconvenient. Mr. Ortega's popularity rating is down to about 20%, suggesting that although he is the executive in charge, a lot of Nicaraguans now wish it weren't so.
It is within this reality that Mr. Ortega seems to have decided that Sandinista victories in the Nov. 9 municipal elections were a must. The government has proclaimed Sandinista victories in 94 municipalities, but the opposition is claiming fraud. A bitter struggle is under way.
Sandinista shenanigans began long before the polls opened. Not surprisingly, given Mr. Ortega's history as a "revolutionary," violence was a key campaign tactic. But don't take my word for it. No less than the nongovernmental organization known as the Washington Office on Latin America -- renowned for its left-leaning politics -- warned of state-sponsored repression ahead of the vote.