He’s closed off the competitive opposition’s electoral space, and opened doors only to the minor parties.
Wilfredo Miranda Aburto / Arlen Cerda (Confidencial)
HAVANA TIMES – With less than five months to go for the November 6 national elections, the Constitutional Wing of Nicaragua’s Supreme Court has effectively left the opposing National Coalition for Democracy (Coalición Nacional por la Democracia) without a flag or a designated spot on the ballot. This was the result of last Wednesday’s resolution of a longstanding lawsuit -begun over six year ago – regarding the Independent Liberal Party (PLI).
The Justices awarded the legal representation and seals of that party to Pedro Reyes Vallejos, a lawyer and member of one of the three “factions” that had been claiming their right to these symbols against the right of deputy Eduardo Montealegre Rivas. The dispute, which involved three groups that were distinct from Montealegre’s alliance, began more than six years ago; nonetheless, the court’s decision came less than five months from voting day, and one month after the electoral process was officially declared.
The magistrates also declared null and void the convention that the PLI, with Montealegre as representative, held this past Sunday June 5, during which the Presidential formula of Luis Callejas and Violeta Granera was ratified. Both were named as candidates for the National Coalition for Democracy, the opposition alliance made up of the PLI plus eight other political movements and organizations in the country.
Francisco Rosales, president of the constitutional division of the Supreme Court, accused Montealegre of being “authoritarian” for having convened the convention.
The court also ordered the Supreme Electoral Council (CSE) “to adjust” the current electoral calendar so that the new PLI executive committee could put together a new convention “as soon as possible.”
Years before, the Supreme Electoral Council had awarded legal representation for the PLI and control of the official party seals to Indalecio Rodríguez. The party participated in the 2011 presidential elections and the 2012 municipal elections using ballot space #13, and emerged as the second strongest political force in the country and the chief opposition party.
In April 2014, Montealegre took over for Rodriguez as the legal representative and president of the PLI.
Following that decision of the electoral authorities, two factions of the PLI – one led by Reyes Vallejos and one by Valmore Valladares – presented four appeals of unconstitutionality before the judicial system. These were also backed by the politician José Venancio Berríos.
The verdict of the Constitutional Wing recognized Rolin Belmar Tobie Forbes, deceased, as “the one representative of the PLI national executive council;” Forbes, in turn, had left the legal representation to Reyes Vallejos. The magistrates based their decision on the PLI delegate’s assembly held February 27, 2012.
The Constitutional Court is made up of Francisco Rosales, Rafael Solís, Manuel Martínez, Ileana Pérez, Armando Juárez and Carlos Aguerri, the majority loyal to Daniel Ortega.
Ortega “closes an institutional channel”
Montealegre and the Coalition for Democracy offered a press conference on Wednesday in which they criticized the decision of the Constitutional Court and announced the beginning of a “popular mobilization.”
“Next Friday we’re going to convene all the departmental presidents of all the forces that make up the Coalition. Later we’ll go out in the streets to initiate the popular mobilization, together with all Nicaraguans who want to live in peace, to demand, today more than ever, Free Elections!,” Montealegre affirmed.
To the opposition leader, the PLI isn’t a flag or a designated space on the ballot, or a president. “Those are accessories,” he notes. In his judgment, the PLI is a political reality that had been constructed with the effort and dedication of thousands of Nicaraguans. We’ve been building the party since 2005, making it the major political opposition to this regime, and the head of the National Coalition for Democracy.”
Montealegre stated that although they don’t have a spot on the ballot, the Callejas-Granera presidential formula will continue their campaign around the country. “The members of the National Executive Committee and each one of the Departmental and Municipal Boards of Directors have a commitment to those thousands of citizens. The Callejas-Granera presidential formula too, has a commitment to those thousands of citizens who have deposited their trust in this political option and have converted it into the only opposing political force in this country,” he maintained.
While the magistrates were still at the Supreme Court this morning, Montealegre’s branch of the PLI was carrying out their weekly demonstration, known as the Wednesday Protest. Faced with the insistent demonstrators at the main door of the public building, the security guards used pepper spray, affecting the journalists covering the activity as well.
The opposition feels that Daniel Ortega is displaying “fear” by closing the electoral space to them. “Ortega has taken away the power to choose, and now to compete,” Granera said.
Social media reflected indignation about the decision. “Today puts the finishing touches on the castration of Nicaragua’s political system. With one ‘slice’ they’ve truncated the only party capable of competing,” expressed writer Gioconda Belli.
Ortega also buried independent observation of the elections
Comandante Daniel Ortega also closed off the possibility of independent electoral observation for the November voting. This was announced in a speech on June 4, during the National Sandinista Congress where he was ratified for the seventh time as the party’s presidential candidate. Ortega is currently seeking a third consecutive term in office.
“We’re finished with observation here, let them observe how they can put things in order in their own countries,” sentenced Ortega from the Plaza of the Unaligned, part of the former Olof Palme Convention Center and next to the National Assembly.
Observation has become a national demand. Polls reveal that over 80% of Nicaraguans – including FSLN sympathizers – support inviting and accrediting independent electoral observation. Diverse sectors of society, such as civic movements, the Catholic Church, and even COSEP, the superior council of private enterprise, have advocated for this right that has been violated by the Ortega administration.
Just moments before the Constitutional Courtroom decision, COSEP president José Adan Aguerri, repeated the business leaders’ position in favor of electoral observation and insisted on the need to “restore democratic credibility to the country in the eyes of the national and international community, in view of the constant demand for transparency in electoral processes.”
“We can’t ignore the fact that we’ve come from questionably legitimate electoral processes that fortunately didn’t lead to severe and irreversible political crises, but that affected the electoral image of our country,” stated Aguerri in a document published last Tuesday that reflects the weekly editorial positions of COSEP.
At Wednesday’s press conference, Aguerri added that COSEP has “different ways of bringing these topics” before the government, among them public petitions, civic campaigns that will begin next month, and “of course, we’ll bring these topics to the table with the Government as well,” he affirmed.
COSEP has asked the Supreme Electoral Council to regulate the accreditation and participation of national and international observers in accordance with the procedures established in the country’s Electoral Law.