MANAGUA, February 12, 2014 (AFP) – Nicaragua scrapped presidential term limits on Tuesday, paving the way for Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega to seek reelection in 2016.
Ortega was leader of the leftist guerrilla movement that overthrew the Central American country’s US-backed dictator Anastasio Somoza in 1979.
He served first as the coordinator of Nicaragua’s ruling junta — a Cold War foe of Washington — and was elected to a first term as president in 1985.
He was later re-elected to two more terms, the first in 2007, and has indicated interest in seeking a new five-year mandate in 2016.
If he is successful, he will return to a presidency with newly strengthened powers.
The national leader can now issue decrees that will be on par with laws passed by congress and can raise or lower taxes — a prerogative until now reserved to the legislature.
Lawmakers passed the term limit amendment late last month by a tally of 64 to 25, and the full packet of reform measures was published in the official gazette on Tuesday.
The amendment’s most controversial aspect erased a law limiting a president to two non-consecutive terms, with at least five years elapsed between them.
The reforms also eliminate the 35 percent minimum proportion of the vote needed to win a presidential election.
From now on, the candidate who wins the most votes wins outright, without going to a runoff.
Another reform now in effect allows the president to appoint active duty police and military officials to government posts currently reserved for civilians.
The opposition, which has been splintered by infighting and weak leadership, has said the reforms would not resolve health, housing and poverty issues affecting a majority of the population.