Britain says Ortegas dragging Nicaragua down the path of authoritarianism

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Nicaragua readies to hold presidential election

LONDON (Reuters) -Britain on Monday said President Daniel Ortega was dragging Nicaragua further down the "tragic path of authoritarianism" with an election which was neither free nor fair because all credible opposition candidates had been jailed or disqualified.

"The presidential election that took place in Nicaragua on 7 November was an election in name only. It was neither free, nor fair," Britain's foreign ministry said. "The result is not a plausible expression of democracy."

"With these manoeuvrings the Ortegas are taking Nicaragua further down the tragic path of authoritarianism."

Britain said Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, continued in power only after having all credible opposition candidates arrested and disqualified from standing for election.

Daniel Ortega easily secured a fourth consecutive term as Nicaragua's president, early results showed on Monday, after the former guerrilla fighter suppressed political rivals in a vote critics said was rigged but which won Russian recognition.

"The people of Nicaragua deserve better. In recent years they have consistently been denied many of their universal human rights, among them freedom of expression and the right to peaceful assembly," Britain said.

"The UK calls for the immediate and unconditional release of all opposition leaders and other political prisoners in Nicaragua and for the full restoration of all of their civil and political rights."

(Reporting by Guy FaulconbridgeEditing by William Schomberg)

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