Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Nicaragua Wakes Up to Daniel Ortega's New 'Sandinista Constitution'

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Nicaragua Wakes Up to Daniel Ortega's New 'Sandinista Constitution'

Article excerpt

While Nicaragua was on holiday, the Sandinista government of Daniel Ortega reprinted the Constitution. It now includes a law that was left dead 20 years ago.

Unable to muster the votes needed in legislature to reform the Constitution, the ruling Sandinista Front has done the next best thing: reprint the old Constitution with several "modifications."

Taking advantage of last week's public holiday decreed by President Daniel Ortega, top Sandinista legislator Rene Nunez ordered the reprinting of the Nicaraguan Constitution while the rest of the country was on vacation. When opposition lawmakers returned to work this week, they discovered that the "new edition" of the Constitution mysteriously included an old law that many left for dead 20 years ago.

The Sandinistas argue the reinclusion of the "forgotten" article will ensure government stability and prevent "anarchy," according to fellow Sandinista legislator Edwin Castro.

"The people have to understand clearly that laws that are not reformed or overturned are still in effect," Mr. Castro told state media.

Lawyer Carlos Tunnerman, of the opposition civic group Movement for Nicaragua, says the Sandinistas' argument is "absolutely absurd" and demonstrates "the desperation of Ortega and those around him to perpetuate in power."

According to the resurrected second paragraph of Law 201, supreme court judges, electoral magistrates, and other public officials can remain in office beyond their term limits until new officials are appointed. The problem is, according to legal analysts, that the law was a "transitory" provision in the 1987 Constitution and expired more than two decades ago. That's why it wasn't included in the current Constitution, which was printed after the reforms of 1995.

Yet with elections happening next year, Mr. Ortega, who hopes to run despite a constitutional ban on presidential reelection, wants to keep his "dream team" government in office, even though the terms of 25 top officials have already expired. …

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