MANAGUA, Nicaragua (AP) — Nicaragua's top electoral authority decimated the country's political opposition on Friday by unseating practically all of its remaining lawmakers in congress as President Daniel Ortega prepares to seek a third term.
The Supreme Electoral Council ousted 16 opposition legislators from the Liberal Independent Party and its ally the Sandinista Renovation Movement Friday for not recognizing their officially sanctioned leader. That leader, Pedro Reyes, had recently been given that authority by the Supreme Court, which removed the opposition party's previous leader following a long-running political dispute. Reyes is seen by some within his own party as a tool of Ortega.
The 16 legislators removed from their seats supported the party's former leader Eduardo Montealegre and refused to recognize Reyes, who said the vacant seats will be filled by party members who recognize him.
Carlos Langrand, one of the ousted lawmakers, said through his Twitter account: "We have been unseated for not lowering our heads before the dictatorship of Daniel Ortega."
Nicaragua is scheduled to hold elections Nov. 6.
"We tried to avoid this, we convened meetings on several occasions, they have ignored it and we asked the electoral authority to unseat them, because they do not want to accept the new authority in (the party)," Reyes said.
The National Assembly is composed of 92 legislators. It is currently in recess.
The Sandinista Renovation Movement, which lost two lawmakers and is allied with the Liberal Independent Party, called the council's decision "a new blow to completely liquidate political pluralism and make disappear the opposition voices in parliament and public institutions that have played an important role in denouncing Ortega's abuses of power."
The Sandinista National Liberation Front chose Ortega as its presidential candidate in June for the seventh consecutive time. He announced he would not allow international election monitoring because those organizations are "shameless" and work for the "empire" that seeks to attack or remove from power leftist governments.
On Thursday, the legislators who were later unseated had released a public letter declaring themselves independent.
Sociologist and political analyst Oscar Rene Vargas said that Ortega has become more radical in his actions against the opposition because he fears that in free elections the public would remove him like they did in 1990.
"There is a fear within commander Daniel Ortega, who appears to be the one behind moves like these," Vargas said. "It seems like he does not trust the polls that supposedly show the people favoring him." Various opinion polls have shown that more than 60 percent of those polls think he should remain in power.
The National Coalition for Democracy, which was seen as the strongest opposition force against Ortega's re-election, decided several weeks ago to not participate in the election, which it termed an "electoral farce."