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National Assembly approves constitutional reforms

News from Nicaragua | Monday, 16 December 2013 | Click here for original article

The right of re-election, mechanisms for direct popular democracy, and equal representation of women in public office are three of the key reforms.

On 10 December the Nicaragua National Assembly by approved, by 64 votes to 26, a package of partial reforms to the constitution. This decision was taken after a series of consultations with all sectors of society and the economy. Before coming into effect the reforms must be considered again in the next legislative period.

The general focus of the reforms is to encourage direct popular participation; to broaden economic democracy and a more equal redistribution of national wealth; and to create greater stability for the country's institutions.

The key reforms are as follows:

* An affirmation of the roles of all actors working together with the government on the basis of shared responsibility for reducing poverty and promoting prosperity. As part of the objective the reforms assign priority to ensuring and improving health care and education as fundamental factors to promoting the common good. The reforms also seek to formalise the process of consensus building developed over the last eight years between government, workers and the private sector.

* Strengthening ‘direct democracy’ through ‘citizen’s power’ at neighbourhood level (poder ciudadano) and through organisations that represent different social sectors so that citizens not only elect their representatives but also hold them accountable. The aim is to promote the participation of workers and producers, including business federations, cooperatives, associations of family businesses, unions, and communities. Forms of participatory democracy will also include referendums and plebiscites.

* Candidacy for public office will be based on gender equality to ensure that women make up a statutory 50% of all candidates in elections for the National Assembly, the Central American Parliament, municipal councils, and the councils of the Autonomous Regions.

* The second electoral round will be eliminated and the right of every citizen to re-election will be protected.

* The constitutional definition of Nicaragua's sovereign territory will include the maritime areas adjudicated to Nicaragua by the International Court of Justice in its judgments of 2007 and 2012 as well as any future territorial delimitations adjudicated by the Court.

* The term “Caribbean Coast” will replace the term “Atlantic Coast”.

* Affirmation of the March 2010 UN Declaration of the Common Good of Mother Earth and Humanity