Nicaragua - Political parties

Nicaragua's traditional two parties were the National Liberal Party (Partido Liberal Nacionalista—PLN) and the Nicaraguan Conservative Party (Partido Conservador Nicaragüense—PCN). The PLN favored separation of church and state, some social legislation, no foreign interference in the political process, and limited land reform. It was supported by government employees, the National Guard, and large segments of the middle and lower classes. The PCN desired government cooperation with the Catholic Church (but also advocated freedom of religion), less government interference in private business, and a regressive tax structure.

When the leftist Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), which was founded in 1962, came to power in July 1979, all political parties except those favoring a return to Somoza rule were permitted. Since the Somozas had all been liberals, the PLN was specifically banned.

Under the Sandinistas, Nicaragua's governing political coalition, the Patriotic Front for the Revolution (Frente Patriótico para la Revolución—FPR), formed in 1980, consisted of the FSLN, the Independent Liberal Party (Partido Liberal Independiente—PLI), the Popular Social Christian Party (Partido Popular Social Cristiano—PPSC), and the Moscow-oriented Nicaraguan Socialist Party (Partido Socialista Nicaragüense—PSN). Opposition parties included the Conservative Democratic Party (Partido Conservador Demócrata—PCD), the Nicaraguan Social Christian Party (Partido Social Cristiano Nicaragüense—PSCN), and the Social Democratic Party (Partido Social Demócrata—PSD).

The National Opposition Union (UNO), under which Violeta Chamorro was elected president in 1990, was a 10-party coalition that included both the Conservatives and the Liberals, as well as several parties formerly aligned with the Sandinistas, including the PLI and the PSD. The PLI was also the party of Vice President Virgilio Godoy. Others included the Christian Democratic Union (UDC), the National Democratic Movement (MDN), the National Action Party (PAN), and the Neo-Liberal Party (PALI).

By the mid-1990s, the UNO coalition had disbanded. Nicaragua had numerous parties ranging across the political spectrum, although the country was dominated by two principal opposed groups, the Liberal Constitutionalist Party (PLC), a right-wing successor to the traditional liberal party, and, on the left, the still-active FSLN. In the October 1996 presidential election, Arnoldo Alemán, former mayor of Managua and leader of the PLC, was elected with 51% of the vote, supported by a coalition of parties and factions called the Liberal Alliance (AL). Daniel Ortega, the FSLN candidate, won 38% of the vote, with the rest going to candidates from smaller parties. In the legislative elections, 42 of the 93 seats in the National Assembly were won by the National Alliance, with the FSLN winning 36, and the remaining 15 going to candidates from nine other parties. These included the Christian Way (Camino Cristiano), the Conservative Party of Nicaragua (PCN), the center-right Nicaraguan Resistance Party (PRN), the center-left Sandinista Renovation Movement (MRS), and the center-right Independent Liberal party (PLI). Altogether, 24 political parties and popular organizations participated in the 1996 elections.

In the 2001 parliamentary elections, held concurrently with the presidential election, the PLC won 53.7% of the vote, clinching 47 seats in the 93-member Assembly. The Sandinistas gained 43 seats and the remaining seats went to the Conservative Party of Nicaragua. The 2001 elections witnessed the consolidation of Nicaragua as a two-party system, with an overwhelming majority of votes going to the rightwing PCN and the leftwing Sandinistas.

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