Nicaragua's Daniel Ortega renominated for president, despite term limits
Nicaragua's Daniel Ortega is finishing his second term in office, the maximum allowed under the Constitution. But on Saturday he accepted the Sandinista Party's nomination to run again.
President Daniel Ortega on Saturday accepted his party's nomination for the presidency, even though his reelection is barred by the Constitution.Skip to next paragraph
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Despite an outcry over the allegedly fraudulent presidential bid, early polls show Mr. Ortega is favored to win the November election. And given Nicaragua’s bleak political panorama, the Sandinista strongman is increasingly considered the least-bad option here – at least by the country’s sizable poor population that has benefited from new social programs and government handouts.
“I don’t think that the Nicaraguan citizen relates to the issue of legality or legitimacy as long as fundamental services are provided in an immediate way – and this government is very effective in delivering the fundamentals,” says Arturo Cruz, a political science professor at INCAE Business School and Ortega’s former ambassador to the United States.
The former revolutionary’s bid for presidency is nothing new – he’s been the Sandinista Front’s only candidate since 1984, when he was first elected president. But this time it’s illegal, insist legal experts, opposition politicians, and religious leaders.
Silvio José Báez, the Roman Catholic Church’s popular and outspoken auxiliary bishop of Managua, says the “rule of law has been blown to smithereens.” And today a group of Sandinista dissidents, who held various leadership roles in the revolutionary government in the 80s, released a joint statement calling Ortega’s candidacy a “shameful act” by a “criminal group that has usurped the name of the Sandinista National Liberation Front.”
Article 147 of the Constitution prohibits acting presidents from seeking reelection, and bans the candidacy of any president who has already served two terms. The Supreme Court declared that part of the Constitution illegal in 2009, apparently clearing the way for Ortega’s reelection bid. But opposition lawyers argue that Articles 191 and 195 of the Constitution establish that only the National Assembly has the authority to reform the Constitution.
“Legality and legitimacy are academic arguments that apply to the Facebook crowd, and to a small educated elite,” Mr. Cruz says. But, he adds, that’s not so much the case for “people who are overwhelmed by life.”
While the “Facebook crowd” is indeed protesting – on Saturday some 16,000 Nicaraguans held a “virtual march” on Facebook against Ortega’s reelection bid – most of the country is offline.
Further aiding Ortega’s candidacy is a divided opposition and general mistrust of the Ortega-controlled Supreme Electoral Council (CSE), which is still marred by alleged electoral fraud in 2008 that led to massive aid-cuts from the US and European Union. Roberto Rivas, who remains chief of the CSE though his term expired last July, is now attempting to block electoral observers from monitoring this year’s polls.