MANAGUA, Nicaragua – Nicaragua’s Congress on Tuesday ratified a controversial constitutional amendment scrapping presidential term limits and paving the way for President Daniel Ortega to seek re-election in 2016.
The amendment, which easily passed the first hurdle in December, was approved the second time by an easy 64 to 25 vote, announced National Assembly chief René Núñez, a member of the ruling Sandinista National Liberation Front.
Opposition lawmakers, who voted against the amendment, walked out of the Assembly room as the majority party read out each article of the text.
Its most controversial aspect overturns a 1995 law limiting a president to two, non-consecutive terms.
The measure also eliminates the 35 percent minimum needed to win a presidential poll – under the new law, the candidate who wins the most votes wins outright, without going to a second round.
The reform will go into effect once signed by Ortega.
Ortega, a leader of the leftist guerrilla movement that overthrew dictator Anastasio Somoza in 1979, was the country’s leader from 1979 to 1990.
He served first as the coordinator of a ruling junta and then was elected to his first term as president in 1985. He was later re-elected to two more terms in 2007 and in 2011, after a Supreme Court ruling cleared the way.
He has indicated interest in seeking a new five-year term in 2016.
The new law also allows the appointment of active duty police and military officials to government offices currently reserved for civilians.
The opposition,which has been splintered by infighting and weak leadership, said the reforms would not resolve health, housing and poverty issues affecting a majority of the population in the Central American country.