San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Opposition Lawmakers Want Referendum on Elections

MANAGUA – Amid continued legislative gridlock in protest of what the opposition claims was massive electoral fraud by the governing Sandinista Front, the various political opposition blocs in the National Assembly are proposing a nationwide referendum to allow voters to decide whether to nullify the contentious Nov. 9 municipal elections.

The referendum proposal was announced by opposition lawmakers following a private meeting Dec. 10.

The legislators claim they already have 15,000 of the 50,000 citizen signatures needed to present a referendum proposal to the National Assembly.

The legislature has been paralyzed for the past month, following claims by the opposition that the Sandinistas stole more than 30 mayoral seats in the Nov. 9 elections. The opposition has called for a nationwide, internationally audited recount and has also said it will present a bill to nullify the elections and hold them again next year – a proposal that the Sandinistas call illegal.

Bayardo Izabá, of the NicaraguanCenter for Human Rights (CENIDH), has also spoken out against the proposal to nullify the elections, saying that would be an unnecessary move because not all the election results in the 146 municipalities are being contested. What’s needed, he says, is a careful recount in the “30 or so” municipalities where the results are being challenged.

As of press time, neither party had been able to convoke the 47 lawmakers needed to reach a quorum in the National Assembly, resulting in government paralysis and putting a full docket of bills – including the 2009 Budget – on hold.

The National Assembly was scheduled to break for yearend recess Dec. 15, and at press time it was not clear whether legislative president Rene Núñez, a Sandinista lawmaker, would try to convene an extraordinary session next week.

–Tim Rogers


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