Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Nicaraguan Supreme Court justices today purported to select replacements for protesting justices who have boycotted court sessions for the last ten months, according to an AP story reported in the New York Times.
The boycotting justices, supporters of the conservative Liberal Constitutionalist Party, have butted heads with justices who support President Daniel Ortega and the Sandinistas over presidential appointment authority and constitutional term limits. Problems came to a head between the two groups of justices when the Court ruled last October that President Ortega could run for a second consecutive term in 2011, despite the restriction in Article 147 of the Constitution that prohibits the president from running for two consecutive terms. (The Constitution permits a maximum of two terms, but not two consecutive terms.) The judgment has been criticized as "ruling a portion of the Constitution unconstitutional."
Since the ruling, Ortega extended terms of 25 government officials, including two supporters on the Court, even though their constitutional terms expired. Ortega made the move after a highly fractured legislature was unable to name replacements.
Ortega seems intent to push forward with his reelection campaign, but perhaps (wisely) counting on more than the Court's ruling last year to sanction his candidacy. His chief economic adviser told McClatchy that Ortega would seek the 56 votes he needs in the National Assembly to amend the Constitution and permit his reelection to a second consecutive term.
Meanwhile, the government has flatly rejected suggestions for election monitors. Ortega's opponents see this as just yet another sign that he won't campaign, or win (if he does), fairly.