Via NY Transfer News Collective * All the News that Doesn't Fit
Nicaragua's twelfth legislature closes in controversy
By Toby Mailman, from NY Transfer News Collective, 9 January 1997
MANAGUA, Jan 9 -- Yesterday, during the last session of Nicaragua's twelfth legislature, Deputy Daniel Ortega Saavreda, representing the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), declared the Supreme Court's January 7 decision that the National Assembly's actions since November 22 are invalid "a death sentence for the state of law" in Nicaragua.
The Court found on January 7 that all actions taken by the National Assembly as of November 22 are null, and therefore all laws, decrees and namings or elections of officials by that body have no legal standing. The Assembly split on November 22 between 50 deputies who wished to continue to work until the end of the legislative session, and 43 deputies who supported Liberal Alliance presidential candidate Arnoldo Aleman and ceased to attend Assembly sessions after the Supreme Electoral Council officially announced Aleman's election victory. Two of the deputies who support Aleman went to the Supreme Court to test the validity of the actions of the 50 deputies who continued to work. In a vote of 9 in favor and 3 against, the Court declared the work of the 50 deputies unconstitutional.
The Court's decision is seen here by some as a coup d'etat by the Executive branch against the Legislative branch. In his last speech in this legislature, Ortega said the decision was a threat to the state of law and that his party is ready to defend the state of law "wherever, however and in any arena necessary." When asked about the use of violence, the Secretary General of the FSLN said any form of struggle is valid to defend the state of law.
In its final session the plenary of the Assembly approved a resolution that denies recognition of the Court's decision on the grounds that it violates the constitution, and began procedures for firing the nine judges who voted in favor of the anullment. Some analysts postulate that the judges were bribed to vote in favor of the decision. Outgoing Christian Democrat deputy Acuzena Ferrey called the Court's finding a "coup d'etat against institutionality" and said it undercut the Assembly's attempt to "minimize the arrogance inherited from a totalitarian constitution," adding that "the sad results will be seen in the next months."
Deputy Miriam Arguello, whose election to the post of human rights advocate is now invalid, said the move could lead to a dictatorship "worse than Somoza." She pointed out that 16 new deputies from minority parties will constitute the pendulum which will determine the direction of the new Assembly, which begins today, since neither of the two main forces, the Liberal Alliance and the FSLN, have a majority of votes in the Assembly.
Outgoing deputies Moises Hassan and Doris Tijerino Haslam have both presented demands before the Supreme Court to reverse its decision, as, according to Tijerino, "[the] last opportunity for the maximum court of justice to rectify and impede the chaos and instability that is being imposed on the country." The Supreme Court is the highest legal authority in Nicaragua and there is no higher internal legal authority to which its decisions can be appealed.
The laws that were essentially overturned include a number which benefit marginalized populations, poor and small-scale producers, and workers, but also several highly criticized laws which would have given outgoing deputies a month's salary for each year worked in the Assembly, a new car, and other benefits seen as a form of self-enrichment.
It will now be up to the new Assembly, with 41 Liberal Alliance deputies, and 37 FSLN deputies, as well as the 16 "floating" deputies, to determine the fate of the laws which for the moment remain in limbo.