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Ortega Renews Call for Overhaul

July 30, 2004

GRANADA, Nicaragua – Sandinistasecretary general Daniel Ortega this weekrepeated his call for a complete overhaul ofthe country’s political system, shifting awayfrom a presidential model and toward a parliamentarysystem, or “direct democracy.”Ortega first called for changes to thepolitical system July 19, during the 25thanniversary of the Sandinistas’ revolutionaryvictory (TT, July 23). The initial commentsby the former President were tuckedinto a nearly two-hour speech on the historyof the insurrection, and not given muchattention by the press or political analysts.“We need to get rid of the presidentialsystem, but not totally with a parliamentarysystem,” Ortega said during the 25thanniversary speech in Managua. “We needto democratize the country, open spaces fordemocratic participation.”ORTEGA’S comments, though not aseloquent, echoed a similar call for change byformer Costa Rican President Miguel AngelRodríguez, who proposed Costa Rica adopt asemi-parliamentary system during his Stateof the Nation address in 2001. Rodríguez’proposal was never presented formally to theLegislative Assembly, but appeared to beflirted with again two years later, whenPresident Abel Pacheco lamented that thecurrent presidential system is unworkableand needs to be changed. Pacheco never followedup on his comments, either.Despite being ignored at first, Ortegathis week repeated his call for a “directdemocracy,” although details of his proposalare not clear. Ortega has criticized the role ofPresident as that of king, but has not elaboratedon how power would be decentralizedunder his idea of a “direct democracy.”Several of the more cynical politicalanalysts this week argued that Ortega’sproposal is nothing more than a subliminaladmission that he can’t win an electionunder the current system. The perennialSandinista candidate has lost three consecutivebids for presidency, and has alreadyannounced he is running again in 2006.PRESIDENT Enrique Bolaños alsodismissed Ortega’s idea, and mocked hiscontinued candidacy.“I don’t think Nicaraguans will committhe error of tripping over the same stonetwice. You have to be really dumb to tripover the same stone twice,” Bolaños said,according to the daily La Prensa.

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