Nicaragua's Ortega Eyes Recall, End To Term Limits
By Morgan Lee (AP)

Managua - Nicaraguan opposition lawmakers on Monday condemned a public appeal for constitutional changes by President Daniel Ortega as an attempt to extend term limits and eventually allow the leftist leader's re-election.

At a massive celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Sandinista revolution on Sunday, the president and former guerrilla fighter proposed to allow recall elections and criticized presidential term limits for being stricter than other public offices.

"If we are going to be just and fair, let the right to re-election be for all and people with their vote can award or punish," Ortega told a crowd. "This is the principle that we have to defend."

Nicaraguan law bars presidents from consecutive terms in office or more than two terms in all. Ortega ended a first stint as president in 1990 and was elected again in 2006 to a five-year term.

Opposition lawmaker Jose Pallais said Ortega's proposals appeared to follow the example of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who has expended presidential term limits and powers by public referendum, and President Manuel Zelaya of Honduras, who was ousted by a coup last month over plans for a referendum on a constitutional convention.

Many Hondurans saw the latter vote as an attempt to impose a Chavez-style socialist government and perpetuate himself in power.

"Ortega would be using the same Chavista recipe that Zelaya used in Honduras to say, if the constitution prohibits something, direct democracy can authorize him," Pallais said.

Officials at Ortega's office could not be reached Monday, an official holiday.

Pallais said the president appears to be seeking the congressional votes to obtain the 60 percent majority needed to revise the constitution, but he worried Ortega might seek a public referendum on the issue despite legal obstacles.

Ortega is better positioned than Zelaya was to initiate constitutional changes, said Daniel Erikson of the Inter-American Dialogue in Washington.

"Ortega has a much stronger political base in Nicaragua than Zelaya did in Honduras," Erikson said. "At the end of the day, Zelaya's political support had dwindled and basically any institution with any weight had turned away."



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