MANAGUA – The possibility of an authentic opposition alliance between pre-candidates Fabio Gadea and Arnoldo Alemán – both of whom hope to unseat incumbent President Daniel Ortega in November’s general elections – now appears more remote than ever.
Hopeful rumors that Alemán intended to drop out of the race last week and back Gadea’s unified opposition ticket in exchange for control over the next National Assembly fizzled after the two men met in private Jan. 19 and Alemán instead asked Gadea to be his running mate – a proposal Gadea rejected.
“Lamentably for Nicaragua and its people, I have proved that Doctor Alemán had no real will [to drop out of the race] and continues to insist on his presidential candidacy based on a model of quotas of power and privileges,” Gadea said.
On Jan. 20 – just hours after the much anticipated meeting between the two opposition pre-candidates – Alemán’s Liberal Constitutional Party (PLC) announced a new electoral alliance with the Conservative Party (PC). The formation of the alliance suggests the former president and ex-convict never had any real intention of dropping out of the race, and perhaps was trying to dupe Gadea into doing so instead.
Now, it appears Alemán is trying to force the opposition unity that he hasn’t been able to achieve organically based on his political merits or leadership.
Alemán’s new alliance, known by the unruly acronym GANA PLC-PC, is actively recruiting other minority parties to join the electoral pact and undercut Gadea’s chances of running for president. If Alemán’s alliance is able to absorb the always ambiguous Nicaraguan Liberal Alliance (ALN) and the hopelessly divided Independent Liberal Party (PLI), Gadea’s so-called “consensus candidacy” will be over before it starts.
Despite polling ahead of Alemán in the voter-intention surveys and winning the endorsements of Eduardo Montealegre’s “Vamos Con Eduardo” political movement and the defrocked Sandinista Renovation Movement (MRS), Gadea’s Nicaraguan Hope for Unity (UNE) movement still doesn’t have a spot on the 2011 presidential ballot.
That’s because the Ortega-controlled Supreme Electoral Council (CSE) arbitrarily separated Montealegre from his ALN party, which it handed over to closet Sandinista sympathizers, and then stripped the MRS of its party status in 2008, effectively decapitating the two opposition parties.
Therefore, if Alemán is able to lure the ALN and PLI into his alliance with promises of cabinet posts and representation in the National Assembly, Gadea could be left without a spot on the ballot. Forming a new party has become mission impossible under the Ortega-controlled CSE.
“When there are no more spots left on the ballot, Gadea will have to come [join us],” Conservative Party president Alejandro Bolaños-Davis told The Nica Times after signing his party onto Alemán’s electoral alliance. “And if the ALN joins us, there would be no more spots left on the ballot for Gadea.”
Analysts, however, says GANA PLC-PC is more likely to divide than unify the opposition vote.
“Arnoldo Alemán is playing his role as a divisive factor,” said political analyst Felix Maradiaga. “The PLC and PC aspire to leave voters without the option of an independent party.”
The Sin of Omission
As Nicaragua’s so-called opposition continues to cannibalize itself, Ortega’s candidacy continues to gain steam, despite its increasing illegitimacy and brazen illegality.
In another low-blow to the country’s abused Constitution, the Ortega-controlled Supreme Court held another secret session with substitute Sandinista judges last week to ratify the president’s illegal attempt to get himself reelected this year.
According to Article 147 of the Constitution, Ortega’s candidacy is doubly prohibited because he is the acting president and because he will have already served two previous terms (1984-1990; 2007-2012).
But in a secretive session in 2009, Ortega’s judges ruled that article doesn’t apply to their boss (NT, Oct. 23, 2009). Then, in another secretive session last week, the same judges ratified that decision and ordered it be printed the official daily La Gaceta (if it’s in print, it must be true!).
Opposition judges loyal to Alemán once again played their Three’s Company-esque role of pretending to have no idea what’s happening on the other side of the door. The Liberal magistrates said they were completely unaware that the Orteguista judges were voting on the matter until they say the resolution printed the following day in La Gaceta.
Catholic Church leaders reacted strongly this week to the latest offense by the Orteguistas. Monseñor Silvio Báez, auxiliary bishop for Managua, called the high court’s shenanigans “a sin” and reiterated the Episcopal Conference’s position that Nicaragua’s Constitution be respected.
Pactos y Más Pactos
PLC secretary Francisco Aguirre said the alliance between his party and PC is a rekindling of the 1855 alliance known as the “providential pact” that “helped save Nicaragua from the filibusters.”
Similar to that effort 160 years ago, the GANA PLC-PC pact, says Aguirre, “will allow us to rescue Nicaragua from the political threat we are facing now” from Ortega.
What remains to be seen, however, is whether the PLC’s electoral pact with the PC is strong enough to undo its power-sharing pacto with Ortega. Or whether the electoral alliance is really an underhanded strategy of the power-sharing pacto to keep the opposition divided and assure Ortega’s victory.
Pundits insist only the voters can save Nicaragua’s democracy now.
“The only ones who can assure a concentration of votes against Ortega are the voters,” Maradiaga said. “The real opposition, which is UNE, must work hard to confront three enemies that are even greater than Ortega: a divided vote, the phantoms of electoral fraud, and voter abstention.”
If that doesn’t happen soon, Maradiaga warned, “The illegal candidate Ortega will win without much difficulty.”