MANAGUA – The chief justice of Nicaragua’s Supreme Court said Tuesday that a ruling by several of his colleagues nullifying term limits on elected officials represents “legal anarchy.”
Manuel Martinez told reporters that the ruling is illegal in terms of the manner in which the quorum on the high court’s Constitutional Chamber was formed.
He was reacting to the Constitutional Chamber’s decision to declare “inapplicable” the constitutional article that would keep President Daniel Ortega from seeking a second consecutive term, but the ruling must still be confirmed by the full 15-member court.
Martinez, linked to the main opposition Liberals, pointed out that all six justices who signed the ruling are members of the governing Sandinista Party.
He said that the three Liberal magistrates of the chamber were replaced by Sandinistas.
Two Liberal members of the chamber, Sergio Cuarezma and Ivan Escobar, alleged that they were not called in time to take part, while the other Liberal justice, Damisis Sirias, is out of the country.
Justice Francisco Rosales, who presides over the tribunal’s Constitutional Chamber, said late Tuesday that the Supreme Electoral Council, or CSE, would be instructed to certify Ortega’s candidacy in the 2011 general elections.
The ruling would also allow incumbent mayors to seek re-election in Nicaragua’s 2012 municipal balloting.
Although initially, it was reported that the ruling had to be confirmed by the full 15-member court, Deputy Chief Justice Rafael Solis – a Sandinista – said Tuesday that “the ruling is an unappealable judgment, it’s been ruled upon.”
“What happened last night was an ambush,” Chief Justice Martinez said, claiming that the Constitutional Chamber’s Liberal members were not informed in time to take part.
But Rosales claimed that he contacted all the court members about 1 p.m. on Monday and only the Sandinista magistrates arrived with their substitutes, and he declared that the ruling is unappealable.
Martinez insisted that the Sandinista magistrates showed “complete and flagrant disrespect for the Constitution, for the laws and even for the ethics that every individual should have for himself.”
Rosales said Tuesday that the ruling in favor of the motion filed by Ortega was “based on the principle of sovereignty, which establishes that power belongs to the people, something acknowledged by Article 21 in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948.”
Article 147 of the Nicaraguan Constitution bars re-election of a sitting president or vice president. It also limits a president to a total of two terms.
Ortega, who began his second presidential term on Jan. 10, 2007, and is due to step down in January 2011, has been unable to obtain the 56 votes needed to allow a constitutional reform in Congress.
In the face of that obstacle, Ortega decided to pursue a judicial remedy by filing a motion before the CSE, which in turn referred the matter to the Supreme Court.
Ortega previously governed Nicaragua from 1979-1990, initially as leader of the Sandinista movement that toppled U.S.-backed dictator Anastasio Somoza and subsequently as the country’s elected president. EFE