Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega moved a step closer to running for another term this week when six justices of the constitutional branch of the Supreme Court deemed “unenforceable” a term-limit provision contained in Nicaragua’s constitution. According to opposition leaders and legal experts, a 1995 amendment to the Nicaraguan constitution allows a maximum of two non-consecutive terms.
The ruling by the six justices, who are all affiliated with Ortega’s Sandanista party, requires formal approval by the full 16 judges of the court, but the head of the constitutional branch, Francisco Rosales, has said that the ruling will likely stand and the country’s electoral court has indicated that it will also comply with the decision.
Many Latin American countries are dealing with the issue of presidential term limits. Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez, Bolivia’s Evo Morales and Ecuador’s Rafael Correa have all sought constitutional changes that will allow them to continue running for reelection. The same was also true for deposed Honduran President Mel Zelaya, and may soon be true for leaders in Costa Rica and Colombia.
The U.S. reacted to the news yesterday by expressing concern over the irregular governmental actions in Nicaragua with State Department spokesman Ian Kelly commenting: “The ruling appears to short-circuit, through legal maneuverings, the open and transparent consideration by the Nicaraguan people of the possibility for presidential re-election.”