San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Alemán’s Return Causes Opposition Party Shake-up

The full return of former President Arnoldo Alemán to the political scene is having a ripple effect on opposition political parties.

Alemán, who last month was pardoned for his money laundering conviction, has already made known his 2011 presidential ambitions and his eagerness to reassume his former role as political strongman(NT, Jan. 23, 30). His return, however, has already splintered the fragile Liberal alliance – which perhaps was the Sandinistas’ goal in pardoning Alemán in the first place.

Former presidential and mayoral candidate Eduardo Montealegre wasted no time in announcing his split from the tentative alliance he had formed with Alemán’s Liberal Constitutional Party (PLC). On Jan. 28 Montealegre announced his “Vamos Con Eduardo” political movement would be integrating into the minority Liberal Independent Party (PLI).

Despite not having any elected officials in government, the PLI still has its legal party status, which would allow Montealegre to be the party’s presidential candidate in 2011.

Montealegre turned down Alemán’s challenge to face off against him in the PLC primaries, saying that those internal elections would be as fraudulent as the recent municipal elections.

In defecting to the PLI, Montealegre and his movement are inviting other PLC and “democratic” lawmakers to join them in forming a new opposition base.

Montealegre’s integration into the PLI will be made official during the party’s national convention in March.

“Our objective is to strengthen the united liberal party, where there will be room for all liberals and all democrats in Nicaragua – a liberal party where others, who are not necessarily liberals, will also fit; a party that is truly independent of the pacto, independent of absolute strongman rule. A liberal party that is respectful of the democratic institutions of Nicaragua,” Montealegre said.

In an effort to reach out to other nonliberal opposition forces, Montealegre last week “gave” the embattled left-wing Sandinista Renovation Movement (MRS) one of his lawmakers to save the minority political movement from losing its status as a congressional faction.

The MRS, which was stripped last year of its legal party status by the Sandinista-controlled Supreme Electoral Council (CSE), was also at risk of losing its legislative faction status last week, when lawmaker Juan Ramón Jiménez officially resigned from the party. Under the National Assembly bylaws, legislative factions must have at least four lawmakers in order to maintain their faction status, which means access to an office, secretaries, phone lines and other provisions given to political parties.

The MRS claims that Jiménez’s decision to defect from the party was part of a Sandinista plot to destroy their party entirely. But Montealegre stepped in and rescued the bloc by “giving” them lawmaker Luis Callejas, who is now considered the fourth MRS lawmaker.

“It’s to defend them in the struggle, which is our struggle, in the defense of liberty and democracy in this country,” Callejas said of his strategic switch.


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