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Assembly Asks for CSE Resignation; Deputies are Criticized for "Pinata"
By Toby Mailman, via NY Transfer News Collective, 27 November 1996
MANAGUA, Nov 27 -- In the aftermath of the October 20 elections here, the Nicaraguan National Assembly is calling for the destitution of the entire membership of the Supreme Electoral Council (CSE), the agency charged with organizing and carrying out elections.
According to some deputies, the National Assembly is currently working at achieving a consensus to fire Dr. Rosa Marina Zelaya, president of the CSE, as well as the other members of that body. The position of the Assembly is that, given the complications, irregularities and fraud which have cast doubt on the October 20 national elections and endangered Nicaraguan democracy, the sitting CSE cannot organize further elections. Elections are scheduled for the Nicaraguan Caribbean Coast in 1998, and nationally for mayors and legislative deputies in 2000.
One of the points in question resulting from irregularities in the elections is how seats in the National Assembly were assigned. Azucena Ferrey, a deputy for the Christian Democrats, and a former member of the contra advisory board, said, "I feel deceived... I feel that the constitutional mandate has been violated. I would say that in the assigning of seats there was a little personal 'pinata' [by Rosa Marina Zelaya]." (Zelaya's husband, Jorge Samper, obtained a seat in the Assembly as the only representative of his party, the Sandinista Renovation Movement.)
"It is not just," said Ferrey, "that someone outside the Assembly should interpret the law their way and apply the [election] results as they please; that is why the population should decide on the future fate of these officials."
Ferrey is demanding that the CSE demonstrate how it assigned the Assembly seats to the various parties. The Liberal Alliance has 42 seats, the Sandinista National Liberation Front has 36, and the remaining seats are divided among 9 other small parties.
In the opinion of Socialist Party deputy Dr. Gustavo Tablada, the management of the assignment of seats in the Assembly was a fraud, and merits the resignation of the entire CSE. Tablada has also called for reform to the electoral law to remedy the situation in the future.
Deputy Alfredo Cesar also called into doubt the ability of the CSE to organize future elections, saying "There were plenty of large-scale errors which affected the credibility of this body to the extent that there is a growing consensus among the deputies to enter into the process of firing some or all of the magistrates" of the CSE.
At the same time, the deputies who constitute the current Assembly are coming under criticism for carrying out their own "pinata" before 42 of them leave their posts at the end of the year. The Assembly hurriedly passed laws November 22 giving the authority for appointing the president and executive board of the Central Bank, as well as the Attorney General, to the Legislative, rather than the Executive, branch of government. On November 25, Deputy Adolfo Garcia Esquival asked the executive board of the Assembly to nullify the new laws on the basis that they violate the constitution. However, Alfredo Cesar gave assurances that the deputies acted fully within the law. He also recalled that both laws had previously been proposed in 1994 in the context of debates over constitutional reforms. Conservative deputy Miriam Arguello, among others, seconded Cesar's position.
The move is seen by some supporters of Arnoldo Aleman as an attempt to wrest power from the Executive branch before Aleman takes over the presidency in January of next year.
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