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Nicaragua Supreme Court panel lifts ban on consecutive presidential terms

[JURIST] The constitutional branch of the Supreme Court of Nicaragua [official website, in Spanish] on Monday struck down a constitutional provision that bans presidential candidates from running for two consecutive terms. Under Article 147 of the Nicaraguan Constitution [text, in Spanish], a president can serve a maximum of two terms in office, but the terms cannot be consecutive. Monday's decision will allow President Daniel Ortega [official website, in Spanish], who took office in 2007, to run for reelection in 2011. The court's decision followed a petition made by Ortega and a group of mayors. Opposition leaders have called the move illegal [La Prensa report, in Spanish] because a change in the constitution would have required approval by two-thirds of the national assembly, where Ortega does not have a majority. The six judges on the Supreme Court panel are also regarded as supporters [El Nuevo Diario report, in Spanish] of Ortega's Sandinista party. The decision will also benefit mayors and other elected municipal officers. The ruling must be ratified by a majority of the 16 Supreme Court justices before it can take effect.

Several Latin American countries have recently dealt with the controversial issue of extending presidential term limits. Last month, the Colombian House of Representatives voted to approve [JURIST report] a bill [text, PPS, in Spanish] to hold a referendum on whether President Alvaro Uribe [BBC profile] can run for a third presidential term. In March, then-president of Honduras Manuel Zelaya [BBC profile] proposed [JURIST report] a government poll that would determine whether voters would be receptive to referendum establishing constitutional reform, in which extension of presidential term limits were suspected to be on the agenda. Zelaya was later removed from office [JURIST reports] following a judicial order [La Prensa report, in Spanish] issued by the Honduran Supreme Court after he tried to carry out a nationwide referendum on constitutional reform, despite the Supreme Court ruling against it. In recent years, Chavez in Venezuela and Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa [JURIST reports] have succeeded in passing constitutional reforms extending presidential terms and enhancing presidential powers.

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