US President Joe Biden on Sunday slammed Nicaraguan presidential elections as a "sham," as incumbent Daniel Ortega was assured to win after sidelining his challengers.
"What Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, orchestrated today was a pantomime election that was neither free nor fair, and most certainly not democratic," Biden said in a White House statement on "Nicaragua's sham elections."
Ortega's regime "rigged the outcome well before election day" by imprisoning 39 opposition figures, including seven would-be presidential challengers in recent months and "blocking political parties."
Biden also hit out at the Nicaraguan leader for having quashed and "bullied" the independent media, the private sector and civil society.
"Long unpopular and now without a democratic mandate, the Ortega and Murillo family now rule Nicaragua as autocrats," Biden said.
Nicaraguans went to the polls on Sunday under what rights groups called a climate of fear in the impoverished Central American country.
Polling stations closed at 6:00 pm (0000 GMT) after 11 hours of voting under the watchful eye of 30,000 police and soldiers.
Ortega, 75, is expected to take a fourth consecutive five-year term, his fifth overall, with his wife Murillo, 70, by his side.
Biden called on Ortega "to take immediate steps to restore democracy" and for the release of "those unjustly imprisoned."
The United States "will use all diplomatic and economic tools at our disposal to support the people of Nicaragua and hold accountable the Ortega-Murillo government and those that facilitate its abuses," the president added.
Washington, along with the European Union, has already imposed sanctions against Ortega family members and allies amid the wave of arrests in the lead up to Sunday's vote.
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