Survey gives Ortega big lead ahead of Nicaragua vote

Managua (AFP) - Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega has a seemingly insurmountable lead in voter intentions ahead of elections in three weeks that are expected to deliver him a new term with his wife as vice president.

A survey published Tuesday by the M&R polling institute credited the 70-year-old onetime leftist rebel with 64 percent support. His nearest rival was seen with just 8 percent support.

The largely sidelined opposition has called the looming November 6 vote a "farce." It wants the election to be put off until next year.

Ortega, who is widely seen as being heavily influenced by his wife, Rosario Murillo, is refusing to allow in international election observers.

Although being seen as increasingly autocratic, Ortega has broad public support including, crucially, from the business sector. His wife, currently a government minister and the government's spokesperson, is even more popular.

In June, Nicaragua's supreme court ordered a regime ally to take charge of the main opposition party, the PLI. Opposition lawmakers were also booted from their congressional seats.

The head of the M&R institute, Raul Obregon, told AFP that Ortega had been polling between 62 and 66 percent since February.

"It's likely that that will continue" up to the election, he said.

The survey noted, however, that nearly a quarter of voters polled would not reveal their preference.

Ortega, head of the Sandinista National Liberation Front party, held his first term as president between 1985 and 1990. He then spent years in the political wilderness before coming back into power in 2006, and being re-elected in 2011.