San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Nicaragua's opposition fights to take control of Congress

Following a final game-plan meeting among opposition party lawmakers yesterday afternoon, the stage has been set for the first political showdown of 2009 when the National Assembly reconvenes Friday morning to elect its new congressional directorate – a leadership role that will be hotly disputed between Sandinista and Liberal lawmakers.

Determined not to cede more government power to President Daniel Ortega and his Sandinista Front (FSLN), which controls three of the four branches of government, opposition lawmakers are attempting to band together to claim the presidency of the assembly directorate and a majority of the seven seats. The directorate is charged with calling sessions and setting the legislative agenda for the year.

For the past two years, the directorate has been controlled by Sandinista lawmaker René Núñez, who will be up for re-election, despite a previous power-sharing agreement to alternate the president´s seat between Liberal and Sandinista lawmakers.

The Liberals, meanwhile, are expected to counter with a proposal that the directorate be headed by renegade Liberal lawmaker Eliseo Núñez Sr., head of the Nicaraguan Liberal Alliance.

Though Núñez is a tentative ally of the Sandinista Front, the Liberals are apparently gambling that they can win him back over to their side of the aisle by supporting him for the presidency of the directorate. Some lawmakers, such as the Liberal Party´s Wilfredo Navarro, think Núñez is too risky of a gamble and has proposed himself as an alternative candidate for the presidency.

Meanwhile, the Sandinista social and labor bases, headed by the National Workers´ Front (FNT), will take advantage of the National Assembly´s internal election Friday to organize the first protest march of the year. The march on the National Assembly is to “fight against the neoliberal system,” a system FNT claims the opposition groups represent, according to FNT head and Sandinista lawmaker Gustavo Porras.

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