November 16, 2011 / 7:39 PM / in 8 years

Nicaragua's Ortega to enjoy 2/3 majority in Congress

MANAGUA (Reuters) - Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega will enjoy an overwhelming congressional majority in his third term in office, giving his party the power to change the constitution without needing opposition support.

Ortega’s party, the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), will have 63 out of 92 seats in the National Assembly following this month’s general elections, according to results released on Wednesday by the electoral council.

Opposition parties have expressed concern the FSLN could use its two-thirds majority to pass constitutional amendments that would allow the party to stay in power perpetually with Ortega at the helm.

But Ortega, a former Marxist revolutionary who branded himself as a moderate and sought ties with business groups during his most recent presidential term, promised last week that he will not seek “dramatic changes” in the country’s constitution.

Ortega served his first term in office in the 1980s, regained power in 2006 and was allowed to run for a second consecutive term in 2011 only after a ruling by the Supreme Court, which is controlled by his Sandinista party. Changing the constitution to allow repeated terms in office would enshrine that ruling in law.

But Hector Perla, a political scientist at the University of California, Santa Cruz, said the super majority was nothing to be feared and gave the Sandinistas a clear mandate to deepen the changes they have already begun to make.

“Their overwhelming support in the elections reflects the average Nicaraguan’s approval of how the Sandinistas’ policies are improving their daily lives,” he said.

Several Nicaraguan opposition leaders have rejected the election results, including presidential candidate Fabio Gadea, a popular radio show host who called the results a “fraud”.

Nicaraguan media have reported that Gadea declined to accept the seat in the National Assembly to which he is entitled as the runner-up in the presidential contest.

Reporting by Ivan Castro, writing by Manuel Rueda, editing by Krista Hughes

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