Nicaragua’s electoral council has disqualified the country’s main opposition party from upcoming presidential polls, in which it headed an alliance against the reelection of President Daniel Ortega.
The council ordered on Friday the “annulment of the legal status of the Citizens for Liberty party,” according to a court resolution read before pro-government media by the body’s secretary, Luis Luna.
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According to the text, the president and legal representative of the Citizens Alliance for Liberty (CXL) holds dual United States-Nicaraguan citizenship “in clear violation of the law.”
The statement further said that the opposition party was carrying out “verbal acts that undermine independence, sovereignty and auto-determination”.
The right-wing Constitutionalist Liberal Party (PLC) – which is the largest opposition party in parliament and has indicated it would be willing to collaborate with the government – had called for the disqualification of the CXL due to this alleged illegality, asking the council to “declare null and void all activities by the CXL”.
The council charged that the CXL president “used irregular procedures” and “has been behaving outside the conditions and legal technical regulations for this type of political organization”.
In a statement on social media, CXL said, “These actions of the regime show how much they fear the civic electoral path.”
Police on Wednesday put the party’s vice presidential candidate, Berenice Quezada, under house arrest.
The move is the latest in an escalating political crackdown in the Central American country, with critics accusing Ortega’s government of trying to prevent any meaningful opposition from standing in the November 7 election.
Ortega, in power since 2007, is standing for a fourth consecutive term with his wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo, once again as his running mate.
Authorities have already arrested seven presidential hopefuls in advance of the vote.
A former left-wing fighter, Ortega also governed Nicaragua from 1979 to 1990 when the United States backed armed opposition to his Sandinista movement.
Ortega later rebranded himself as a business-friendly pragmatist, but Western nations and the opposition has said he is increasingly turning into a dictator, as he seeks a stranglehold on power.
The news comes as the United States imposed visa restrictions on 50 relatives of Nicaraguan lawmakers, prosecutors and judges, following a series of measures targeting people close to Ortega.
The visa restriction also includes Ortega’s wife, Murillo.
“The United States is committed to promoting broad accountability for anyone responsible for or benefitting from the Ortega-Murillo regime’s attacks on democratic institutions,” the State Department said in a statement.