New Political Party Already Has Support

June 4, 2004

GRANADA, Nicaragua – Minority partiesand splinter political movements comeand go in Nicaragua as frequently andephemerally as the rains.But when the ballots are counted, all therecent elections here have been a two-horserace between the country’ main caudillos –or political strongmen: Arnoldo Alemán, ofthe ruling Liberal Constitutional Party, andDaniel Ortega, of the opposition SandinistaNational Liberation Front.Even though Alemán, currently incarceratedfor defrauding the government of $100million during his five-year term asPresident (1996-2001), did not run for officeduring the 2001 elections, political observersnote that President Enrique Bolaños trailedOrtega in the polls until Alemán eventuallystarted campaigning on his successor’sbehalf and was able to swing the electionback to the Liberals.But after years of judicial and congressionalgridlock by a weak institutionaldemocracy that appears to be in the gripsof the country’s two rival politicos, a newparty has emerged promising to liberateNicaragua from the power strugglebetween Ortega and Alemán and return thecountry to the people.UNLIKE other upstart political movementsin the past, the Alliance for theRepublic last week received a massive pushout of the starting blocks by the country’stop public figure: President Bolaños.In a move unprecedented in Nicaraguanpolitics, Bolaños, a member of the Liberalparty, last week attended the Alliance’s officialinauguration as a party and said themovement would help de-politicize stateinstitutions such as theSupreme Court and theSupreme ElectionsCouncil.“This will be thesolution to many problemsin Nicaragua,”Bolaños said, invitingother members of theLiberal party and otherminority politicalgroups to join themovement.BOLAÑOS, who has been marginalizedfrom his own party for launching ananti-corruption campaign that landedparty boss Alemán in jail last year, said hewould not seek reelection in 2011 as acandidate for the Alliance, which claims itis anti-reelection.However, the President’s open invitationfor other Liberals to join the movement hasdriven the wedge even deeper into the rulingparty and led many Sandinistas to thinkthey have a chance of reclaiming the presidencyin 2006.Ortega, who has not commented specificallyon the Alliance, announced daysafter its formation that he intends to runnext year for his fourth consecutive bid atthe presidency, after losing in 1990, 1996and 2001.His announcement prompted groansfrom the more progressive element of theSandinista movement, who claim it is timefor Ortega to pass to torch to a new candidate,namely Managua’s Mayor HertyLewites, who leads public opinion polls asthe favorite potential Sandinista candidate.Ortega’s refusal to relinquish his grip onthe former revolutionary movementappears to be strengthening the Alliance’sclaim that underdevelopment and caudillismogo hand inhand.MIGUEL Lopéz,a Liberalcongressman andpresident of theAlliance for theRepublic, toldThe Tico Timesthis week that hisupstart party istrying to form anew political culturein Nicaragua.López, a medical doctor who lived inCosta Rica for 14 years before returning toNicaragua and turning to politics, claims hisparty – an alliance of five minority parties(The Grand Liberal Union, the ConservativeParty, the Nicaraguan DemocraticMovement, the Social Christians and theNational Unity Movement) – already representsalmost 19% of voters and seeks to capture40% of the vote by 2006 to win the presidency.“We are going to target the voters whodon’t identify with the Liberals andSandinistas; the young voters, women andthe indigenous,” he said.The new party, which so far has onlynamed one candidate for the upcomingmunicipal elections that will take place Nov.7 in 152 municipalities around the country,hopes to win several mayoral posts. But thebig contest will be the presidential electionsin two years, López said. The Alliance hasnot yet mentioned its candidate considerationsfor 2006.Thus far, the Alliance has only defineditself in very broad terms: anti-caudillo, anti re-election,respect for private property,respect for human rights, in favor ofprogress and pro-Nicaragua. López said aparty platform detailing social, political andeconomic policies is in the works and will bereleased later this month.POLITICAL analyst and Nicaraguanphilosopher Alejandro Serrano told TheTico Times this week that Nicaragua needsto move away from its caudillo politicaltradition in order to evolve as a democracy.But doing so won’t be so easy, he warned.In order for the Alliance for the Republicto succeed where the multitude of third forcemovements have failed in the past,the party must define a clear platform, saidSerrano, coordinator of the political thinktank The Citizen Participation andReflection Group.“The anti-caudillo element is important,but not sufficient,” said Serrano, who lastweek released his new book titled:‘Legitimacy, Legality and Power.’“They need to present a clear and seriouseconomic, political and social proposal,”he added.The political analyst noted that the currentcaudillo-driven system has resulted ina virtual political standstill: Congress thisyear has gotten into two fistfights but notpassed a single important law.SERRANO thinks that if the Alliance isable to articulate a clear proposal forchange, it will reveal that the two traditionalparties don’t have any clear proposalsfor the country. For the past 18 yearsthe Sandinistas and Liberals have definedthemselves as the opposite of the otherwithout really standing for anything ontheir own, he charged.However, he acknowledged, changinga country’s political culture is aHerculean task.“The anti-caudillo position could be anadvantage, but the country is accustomedto seeing caudillos,” he said.

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