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Nicaragua opposition unites to contest legality of President Ortega's candidacy

The four Nicaraguan opposition parties on November's ballot will present legal challenges to President Daniel Ortega’s candidacy for a third term in office.

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“The only leader for us, the youth, is Comandante Daniel Ortega and that’s why we say no to foreign meddling,” Sandinista Youth member Jahaira Aburto told state TV, while alleging US meddling.

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US Ambassador Robert Callahan has said Washington is interested in clean and transparent elections with credible observation – something the CSE and Orteguista activists are trying to obstruct.

Ortega confidant Rafael Solís, a Supreme Court magistrate whose term expired last year but remains at his post under the same presidential decree, suggested this week that anyone who attempts to challenge the legality of Ortega’s candidacy could face jail time for refusing to respect the high court’s ruling.

Ortega’s supporters have pointed to court rulings in Colombia and Costa Rica that allowed the reelection bids of Alvaro Uribe and Oscar Arias, respectively, as important “legal precedents.”

A fight ahead

But jurists insist that’s nonsense, and so too is the Sandinistas’ attempt to claim legal precedent from other countries that have different political models and distinct constitutions. Former Supreme Court President Alejandro Serrano says no legal recourse afforded under the Constitution can be deemed illegal.

What is illegal, he argues, is Ortega’s candidacy. And while the Ortega-controlled CSE is not expected to suddenly change its mind and uphold any of the challenges presented this week, Mr. Serrano expects that once the motions are shot down in Nicaragua they will be appealed instantly to the Inter-American Court.

Even within Ortega's ranks, however, there appears wariness. After acting Vice President Jaime Morales has declined to run again, sheepishly citing concerns about the constitutional ban against his candidacy, Ortega announced that his new running mate will be recently retired military Gen. Omar Hallesleven, who stepped down last year as Nicaragua’s top military brass.

His inclusion has raised some concerns that Ortega intends to enlist the military in his political project and impose a more heavy-handed regime in the years ahead.

“We have won the peace at the cost of blood, and now we will defend it at all costs,” Ortega said Friday.

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