Nicaragua has amended its constitution allowing current President Daniel Ortega to seek a fourth term in office, despite opposition parties warning that the amendment will undermine democracy in the Central American country.
The bill was easily pushed through the national assembly, which is dominated by Ortega’s ruling Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN).
Opposing parties have criticized the move, saying such changes threaten the very fabrics of democracy. Ortega’s party has defended the bill saying Nicaragua needs long-term stability to sustain economic growth.
The next presidential elections are due in 2016. Ortega became president for the first time in 1984 following the ousting of the Somoza family, which ruled the country for four decades with an iron grip on power.
“In power, the Sandinistas redistributed property and made huge progress in the spheres of health and education,” reports the BBC, referring to the electoral success of Ortega’s party.
Ortega is a former Marxist guerrilla who often praised the socialist policies of late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez and Cuba’s Fidel Castro. In the 1990 presidential election, Ortega lost to Violeta Barrios de Chamorro, his former colleague in the junta.
Ortega ran for election again in October 1996 and November 2001, but lost on both occasions. The one-time guerrilla returned to the presidential office in the 2007 elections and has ruled the nation ever since.
Analysts say Ortega’s relationship with the United States has never been good. In September 2010, after a US report listed Nicaragua as a “major” drug-trafficking center, along with Costa Rica and Honduras, Ortega urged the US Congress and Obama administration to allocate more resources to assist the fight against drug trafficking.
When the Arab Spring spread to Libya, Ortega spoke out in defense of Muammar Gaddafi. As a communist guerrilla, Ortega received military training in Cuba under Fidel Castro.