Nicaraguan opposition candidate Violeta Chamorro expressed optimism yesterday that she will win next February's election and be permitted to take office as president, superseding the decade-long Sandinista rule. "Even the Sandinista government knows now they are in a minority" after the registration of nearly 90 percent of the eligible voters, Chamorro told Washington Post editors and reporters. "The people want a change," she said, equating sentiment in Nicaragua with the drive for reform that is sweeping Eastern Europe and other parts of the world. If President Daniel Ortega or other Sandinista party figures seek to steal the election, Chamorro said, they would face a strong reaction from the Nicaraguan people "and the reaction of the Central American presidents who committed themselves to the process of elections in Nicaragua." Chamorro stressed the importance of plans by officials, journalists and others here and abroad to monitor the elections. In a letter she handed to President Bush at the White House Wednesday, Chamorro asked for "your political and moral support to help ensure that the peace process continues and that the elections go forward and be conducted fairly." Chamorro, who is on a 13-day trip to the United States, France, Germany and Spain, said she would ask the same support for the elections from the Soviet Union as well as Western European nations. The widow of the assassinated publisher of the Managua newspaper La Prensa, Chamorro said she is making a special plea for reconstruction aid to a democratic Nicaragua if she is victorious in the February election. Chamorro said in her letter to Bush that if she is elected, "a democratic Nicaragua will work tirelessly to promote peace and understanding throughout the region, putting an end to the aggressive Sandinista policy of confrontation with our neighbors." In such a situation, she added, the U.S. economic embargo "would lose all of its justification." In response to her request, which had been provided in advance to the White House, Bush said Wednesday he will lift the trade embargo if Chamorro ousts Ortega in the coming election. Bush's pledge, she said, "will be very important" in encouraging expatriate Nicaraguans to return home.