San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Liberals Unite, Fight for Control of National Assembly

Following a final game-plan meeting among opposition party lawmakers Jan. 6, the stage has been set for the first political showdown of 2009 when the National Assembly reconvenes today, Jan. 9, to elect its new congressional directorate – a leadership role that will be hotly disputed between Sandinista and Liberal lawmakers.

Determined to not cede any 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 and six of the seven directorate seats. The National Assembly Directorate is charged with calling sessions and setting the legislative agenda for the year, making it an important authority within the legislature.

“The National Assembly is the last institutional stronghold that the democratic opposition has in the struggle to keep Nicaragua democratic,” Liberal Constitutional Party lawmaker Francisco Aguirre told The Nica Times this week.

For the past two years, the directorate has been controlled by Sandinista lawmaker Rene 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 opposition, meanwhile, still hadn’t announced their candidate at press time, following the last-minute withdrawal of controversial lawmaker Eliseo Núñez Sr., of the Nicaraguan Liberal Alliance, who was intended to be a compromise candidate but couldn’t garner enough opposition support.

Aguirre said that the most important thing is not who controls the presidency of the directorate, but who controls a majority of the seven seats. Nicaragua’s very democracy depends on it, the lawmaker argues.

“If the FSLN can cobble together a solid majority of committed deputies, they can – and will – impose their will on the Congress,” the opposition lawmaker said. “And once they have the Congress, they will have de-facto control of all the powers of the Nicaraguan state.”

Meanwhile, the Sandinista social and labor bosses, headed by the National Workers’ Front (FNT) will take advantage of the National Assembly’s internal election to hold the first protest march of the year.

The march on the National Assembly is to “fight against the neoliberal system” and protest the government model that they claim the opposition lawmakers represent, according to FNT head and Sandinista lawmaker Gustavo Porras.


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