San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Nicaragua's opposition moves to annul '08 municipal elections

Almost a year after the allegedly fraudulent Nov. 9, 2008 municipal elections redefined Nicaraguan democracy, the opposition majority in the legislature pushed forth an initiative Tuesday to annul last year´s contentious poll.

The bill is now in the hands of the National Assembly´s Justice Commission, headed by Liberal Constitutional Party lawmaker José Pallais.

“We are going to give priority to this bill with the intention of submitting it to the floor for a vote before the legislative session ends for the year on Dec. 15,” Pallais told The Nica Times.

Pallais said that if the opposition is able to hold together, it should have enough votes to pass the bill into law, thereby annulling last year´s elections and initiating a whole new election process after new electoral authorities are appointed next year.

“However,” Pallais hedged, “we are expecting that the Sandinista Front will set all sorts of traps and delay tactics and try to divide the opposition to keep this bill from going to a vote.”

But yesterday, at least, the opposition was able to set the tone and override the will of Sandinista lawmakers.

The opposition also scored another minor legislative victory Tuesday by approving a resolution stating that Nicaragua does not recognize any public debt from Venezuelan aid under the auspices of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA). Though President Daniel Ortega has insisted that ALBA aid does not represent any public debt for Nicaragua, the lack of transparency with which the Venezuelan funds are administered has raised serious doubts and speculation about how ALBA works, and what it is.

What remains to be seen is whether the opposition also will follow through on its promise to introduce a law to overturn the controversial Oct. 19 ruling by Sandinista judges to scrap a constitutional ban on consecutive presidential re-election. The opposition lawmakers first attempted to present the initiative Oct. 28, but their alliance wavered at the last minute and they didn´t have the votes to put the bill on the congressional agenda (NT, Oct. 30).

However, following Tuesday´s unusual show of life from the opposition, some are now feeling slightly more optimistic that the re-election annulment law will get a second chance.

Pallais said that the “ideal situation” would be if the opposition could push both the election and re-election annulment laws to a vote before the end of the year.

But analysts claim that, ultimately, there is only a slim chance Nicaragua´s serious governability problems can be resolved by the National Assembly.

Under Nicaraguan law, any conflict of powers between branches of government – such as that which would occur if the legislature passed a bill annulling a judicial ruling, or by overriding an election – is resolved in the Sandinista-controlled Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court, the same authorities responsible for the re-election ruling (NT, Oct. 23).

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