Supporters say it could lift country out of poverty, but opponents point to potential for environment and rights abuses.
Riot police in Nicaragua’s capital have clashed with protesters demanding fair elections ahead of the 2016 national poll that is expected to give President Daniel Ortega his third consecutive term in office.
Protesters on Wednesday forced barricades against a line of riot police outside the electoral council in the capital Managua, while officers hit demonstrators with batons.
A number of arrests of opposition figures from the Liberal Independent Party were reported.
We're all going to be here to tell Nicaragua that this is an abuse of power and sooner or later the people of Nicaragua will realise this.
The AP news agency said that officers broke the lens its photographer and beat several others.
The protesters were attending a weekly demonstration calling for a reform in election rules, which opposition supporters say favour Ortega’s leftist Sandinista party.
Eduardo Montealegre from the Liberal Independent Party told media that protesters will not relent on their demands.
“We’re all going to be here to tell Nicaragua that this is an abuse of power and sooner or later the people of Nicaragua will realise this,” he was quoted by the Reuters news agency as saying.
Opponents of Ortega have long said he has bent the rules to win continuous re-election, pointing to a ruling by the Sandinista-controlled Supreme Court in 2009 to overturn a ban on consecutive terms.
They want a change in the Central American country’s electoral body to provide for a more transparent vote.
Armando Herrera of the Liberal Independent Party accused Ortega of muting civilian democratic voice in the country, dubbing the president a “dictator”.
“The only [person] responsible is called Daniel Ortega for closing off civic action, the process of democracy. This is not a president, he is a tyrant, he is a dictator,” Herrera told Reuters.
Ortega, 65, has moderated some of his socialist policies since regaining the presidency five years ago and he has won praise for letting private businesses operate freely even as he pushed policies aimed at combating poverty.
Helped by financial support from oil-rich Venezuela, Ortega put money into health and education programmes, provided loans for small businesses and gave aid to farmers. The policies won widespread support in largely agrarian Nicaragua.