MANAGUA – The six political parties that make up the right-wing opposition to President Daniel Ortega’s Sandinista Front ratified a fledgling Liberal alliance last week by signing an electoral accord in hopes of winning two-thirds of the 153 mayoral seats up for grabs in next November’s municipal elections.
Eduardo Montealegre, head of the Nicaraguan Liberal Alliance (ALN), and Jorge Castillo, president of the Liberal Constitutional Party (PLC), signed the electoral alliance Jan. 9 in the presence of incarcerated former President Arnoldo Alemán, still considered the PLC’s “maximum leader.”
The Liberal alliance will also include four minority parties, the Independent Liberal Party (PLI), the Neo-Liberal Party (PALI), the Liberal Nationalist Party (PLN) and the Conservative Party. The left-wing Sandinista Renovation Movement (MRS) did not join the alliance, and plans to run its own candidates in the 2008 municipal elections.
Lawmaker Eliseo Núñez, Montealegre’s right-hand man in the ALN, told The Nica Times this week that the next step for the Liberal electoral alliance will be to choose a single party flag under which to run.
Because the ALN and the PLC are the two biggest members of the alliance, both have agreed that it would be best to choose a more neutral third-party ticket on which to run together on the ballot.
That presents the curious possibility that the Liberal’s electoral alliance could run on the ticket of the all-but-defunct PLN, the party of former dictator Anastacio Somoza.
The 2008 municipal ballot could, as a consequence, be divided between the Sandinista Front and the PLN, two parties that evoke the image of Gen. Augusto Sandino and Gen. Somoza – the iconic left and right of Nicaragua’s past.
Núñez, however, said that no final decision has been made as to which ballot box will carry the Liberal electoral alliance, and that a final decision will not be announced until the end of the month.
More relevant – and challenging – than deciding on the party flag will be the selection of candidates in municipalities where both the ALN and PLC have strong support.
The alliance signed between the two parties establishes mechanisms whereby the participating parties will form a mixed commission in each municipality to elect their candidates. In practice, however, the new alliance between formally antagonistic parties may have a couple of kinks.
In Granada, for example, the ALN and PLC, whose party headquarters face each other on a narrow street near the La Merced Church, have a bitter rivalry that borders on hostile. Last year the PLC headquarters hanged in effigy a doll of Montealgre from its doorway, and party events by the ALN were often interrupted by the PLC putting huge music speakers in the street to blare out any attempt at speeches or meetings next door.
So in the case of Granada, Núñez said, the Liberal alliance might take the middle road and let the Conservative Party put forward a candidate.
In Managua, meanwhile, the possibility of Montealegre running on the ticket with PLC hardliner Enrique Quiñonez has raised questions as to what the ALN party boss would do if he wins the mayor’s seat and then plans to run for president in 2011.
According to law,Montealegre would have to renounce his post as mayor by 2010 – halfway through his term – to run for president, ceding his chair to Quiñonez, a boisterous former Contra.
“I am going to do what the people ask of me,”Montealegre said of the possibility of a truncated mayoral term.
Montealegre, a longtime vocal critic of the power-sharing pact between President Ortega and Alemán, also denied that his electoral alliance with the PLC is the same as forming his own “pacto” with Alemán.
“A pact is made for personal benefit, but a strategic alliance is made with the intention of personal sacrifice for the good of the country,” the aspiring candidate told The Nica Times.