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Nicaragua: the new Venezuela

Friday, January 31, 2014

The president of Nicaragua can now be re-elected for an unlimited number of consecutive terms, following last week’s approval of a major constitutional reform by the National Assembly, led by the Sandinista National Liberation Front.

In addition, the president would be elected by a simple majority, eliminating the need for a second round of voting, while gaining the power to issue various decrees with the force of law.

The new rules mean that incumbent President Daniel Ortega can in 2016 seek his fourth term, and third in a row.

Ortega currently has an approval rating of 65%, according to a survey published last week by M & R Consultants.

This is similar to the 62%, which he received in the 2011 election.

A mega project to build an inter-ocean canal, which promises to be an important source of income for the country, may have been a factor in the decision to increase the powers of the presidency.

With this change, Nicaragua takes a path similar to that of Venezuela, which in 2009 consolidated the position of the Executive Branch.

Since the 1979 Sandinista-led revolution, Ortega has been the most powerful Nicaraguan political figure since Anastasio Somoza.

The Sandinistas control Congress, the judiciary, the electoral tribunal, the police and army, along with many municipal governments.