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3461Nicaragua's leftist president calls for re-election

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  • Greg Cannon
    Jul 19, 2009

      Nicaragua's leftist president calls for re-election
      1 hr 24 mins ago

      MANAGUA (Reuters) – Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, a former guerrilla fighter, said on Sunday his country should extend presidential term limits after neighboring Honduras toppled its leftist president in a coup over the same issue.

      Ortega, a U.S. foe during the Cold War, first ruled Nicaragua after taking power in a 1979 Marxist revolution.

      After his Sandinista party was voted out of power in 1990, the opposition banned re-election in the 1995 constitution, a clause Ortega has called "unjust."

      "Congressman are re-elected all the time. Mayors are not allowed to be re-elected. If we are going to be just and fair, re-election should be allowed for all (public officials)," Ortega said in front of thousands of supporters waving flags to celebrate the 30-year anniversary of the revolution.

      A call to overhaul the constitution could raise alarm bells in the region already reeling from the crisis in Honduras where President Manuel Zelaya, an Ortega ally, was pushed into exile after he moved to reform laws to allow re-election.

      The army whisked Zelaya out of the country on a military plane on June 28, following orders from the Supreme Court who said his bid to change the constitution was illegal. The interim government quickly installed after Zelaya's ouster has sworn to arrest him if he returns to Honduras.

      Both Ortega and Zelaya are close to Venezuela's self-styled socialist leader Hugo Chavez, a relentless critic of the United States who has been in power for 10 years and vows to rule for decades.

      The specter of a Chavez-style government in Honduras in part sparked the coup leaders to move against Zelaya.

      Ortega ruled Nicaragua for 11 years as head of the Sandinista's revolutionary government until he was voted out. He returned to power in 2007 but presidents are barred from running consecutively or serving more than two terms.

      Ortega would need a majority in Congress to support a measure to change the constitution, something he does not now have and critics say an attempt to have himself elected again would squash the political opposition.