November 6, 2011

Dictator Watch - Nicaragua Edition

Dictator Watch usually focuses on 4 dictators - Putin, Jong Il, Ahmedinejad and Chavez.  But in Nicaragua, former socialist Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega is poised to win a third (and second consecutive) presidential term today.  Nicaragua is not a major international player, but the backslide into socialism is still a concern. Of course Ortega has supposedly tempered his socialism, but it is not gone.  

The slide into despotism is also a real possibility;
MANAGUA, Nicaragua (AP) -- Nicaraguan president and one-time Sandinista revolutionary Daniel Ortega appears headed for victory Sunday in an election that his critics say could be the prelude to a presidency for life.

Since returning to power in 2007, the 65-year-old Ortega has boosted his popularity in Central America's poorest country with a combination of pork-barrel populism and support for the free-market economy he once opposed.

Now, riding on a populist platform and World Bank praise for his economic strategies, he seeks a third term - his second consecutive one - after the Sandinista majority on the Supreme Court overruled the term limits set by the Nicaraguan constitution.

With nearly 50 percent of voter support and an 18-point lead over his nearest challenger in the most recent poll, Ortega could end up with a mandate that would not only legitimize his re-election but allow him to make constitutional changes guaranteeing perpetual re-election.
 We may find out in the next few years what drives Ortega - power, socialism or both.

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