Towards a New Constitution
When the broadening of the state of emergency in Nicaragua was announced on October 15, one of the first concerns was the fate of the constitutional process, initiated early this year. Government officials quickly assured that the measures should concern none but those involved in conspiratorial activities against the revolution and the country’s internal order. Vice President Sergio Ramírez, in an extensive interview on the topic the following week, stated explicitly that “the discussions in the National Assembly on the Constitution will in no way be suspended.” The action, then, had the same objective as Argentina’s new state of siege, decreed for the first time, as Radical Party Deputy Moreau pointed out, “to control the illegal activities of the ultra-right forces that want to take us back to the past.” As in Argentina, the goal was not to flout the rule of law, but to protect it.
Despite the war carried out by ultra-right forces that also want to take Nicaragua back to its past, the process of creating a new Constitution is continuing. The Assembly is going ahead with its studies of the constitutional project, its already initiated consultations with political and social sectors, and its preparation for the massive public consultation through open town hall forums. This process will culminate in the drafting of a Constitution to go into effect on January 10, 1987, exactly two years after the inauguration of the current presidency and legislature. With it the collective identity of the new Nicaraguan revolution will be legally extended and consolidated—a new legal framework for a new social reality.
Crucial issuesFrom the consultation already carried out with the seven political parties represented in the National Assembly and with various grassroots organizations, a convergence of underlying principles has emerged. Of these principles the main ones are already to be found in the innovative and heterodox profile of the revolutionary process itself, which has defined a mixed economy, political pluralism and international non-alignment as the means to national liberation and social transformation. The fourth principle of the revolution, however, participatory democracy, raises historic questions. Some parties see it as interference in the representative democracy that they defend. Strongly emphasized in the contributions of the grassroots organizations, on the other hand, participatory democracy is for them a fundamental issue—the guarantee that the construction of civil society will be carried out under the leadership of the previously dominated classes.
Another crucial issue is found in the very conception of the Constitution. Is to be designed as a definitive legal instrument which consecrates a fully established order? Or should it be a flexible tool, which sees the social organization established in these early years as a stage that may require reevaluation and adjustment? The former conception seeks the greatest procedural specificities and is closed to the possibilities of reform. The latter, while conferring a state of law on the existing commitments between diverse social interest groups, views the Constitution itself as a process, open to the continuing development of the revolution within changing historical circumstances.
The greatest challenge in building the legal structureThe process of drafting the Constitution is part of a legal effort to institutionalize the revolution that began in the very first days after July 19, 1979. The commitment has been to use law as an aid to social transformation in a revolutionary way. Among its major efforts are the following: The Fundamental Statute of the Republic, the Statute of Rights and Guarantees, the constituent Law of the Army, the Agrarian Reform Law, the Political Parties Law, the Electoral Law and the Patriotic Military Service Law. In short, the legal structure raised in these six years of revolutionary process is built on a solid foundation.
Through this decided effort to construct a new body of law, the legal disorder inevitable in any revolution has been kept at a low level. The disorder that has existed is more a result of deficiencies in the organization of the judicial system—caused in part by budget limitations—and to the judiciary’s historic lack of independence from the power of the executive. The resulting deeply rooted habits have not yet been totally eradicated.
The political will to resolve the conflict of ethnic diversity on the Atlantic Coast through an autonomy statute is a challenging example of the decision to mobilize the symbolic efficacy of the law in the service of revolutionary change. Further proof of Nicaragua’s commitment to this process is its submission to the legal findings of the International Court at The Hague in an effort to resolve the conflict with the US government. The most important challenge of this commitment, however, is the framing of Nicaragua’s new Constitution.
A great debate precedes the start of Assembly workFor the past six years, the new Fundamental Statute of the Republic and the Statute of Rights and Guarantees of Nicaraguans has served in place of a Constitution. The previous Constitution and the complementary constitutional laws were repealed by Article 3 of the Fundamental Statute, instituted one day after the overthrow of the Somoza dictatorship.
In the first quarter of 1985, the National Assembly, elected the previous November 4, fully debated its own General Statute, which would provide the norms for the functioning of the new legislative body. That debate itself brought up a profoundly polemical point: could the Assembly appoint itself the highest state power simply by virtue of having the mandate to draft the Constitution? The parties that proposed this hoped thus to subordinate the executive power to the constituent assembly, using the argument, common in Latin American politics, that prior to the existence of a Constitution, the constituent assembly itself is the maximum authority. The fundamental issue was whether the Assembly was starting from zero in the preparation of the Constitution.
The Sandinista position against this was based on the recognition of a historic act, the revolution, and on the reality that the population had elected a President with a well-known program, aimed at consolidating that revolution. Having elected this program with their votes, the majority of the Nicaragua people ratified what, to use the popular Nicaraguan phrase, “They had already voted for with their lives.” By defending a revolutionary structure of state powers and not a subordination of the executive to the legislature, or a system of “checks and balances,” the FSLN was reaffirming in the Statute of the Assembly that the revolutionary project was continuing on its course, now within a constitutional framework.
When the debates and voting had ended, it was clear that the National Assembly would be able to pursue legislative functions even before the Constitution was written, and that the executive would retain powers enabling it to continue developing the revolutionary project. For example, the President has the power to write and approve the national budget, establish taxes, decree a state of emergency (submitted to the ratification of the Assembly), etc. In its fifth session, on April 29, 1985, the National Assembly initiated the process of preparing the new Constitution.
Structures and functions in the constitutional processIn accordance with Article 44 of the National Assembly’s General Statures, Assembly president Carlos Núñez appointed a Special constitutional Commission in charge of drafting the Constitution. This process, plus the subsequent debate and revision, is to take no more than two years. The current schedule is to present the draft to the floor of the National Assembly for debate in March 1986. At the end of this process the Special Commission will be dissolved.
The Commission is made up of 22 members: twelve from the FLSN, three from the Conservative Democratic Party (PCD), two each from the Liberal Independent Party (PLI) and the Popular Social-Christian Party (PPSC), and one each from the Nicaraguan Socialist Party (PSN), the Nicaraguan Communist Party (PCN) and the Marxist-Leninist Popular Action Movement (MAP-ML). This Commission’s executive board is made up of three FSLN representatives plus one each from the PCD, PSN and PPSC. Both the Commission and its board are chaired by Carlos Núñez, also a member of the FSLN National Directorate.
To streamline its work, the Special Commission divided into three sub-commissions. Similar to a commission of the earlier Council of State which helped draft the electoral law, the Sub-Commission on the Exterior is in charge of organizing delegations to countries with a wide range of political systems, to study each country’s Constitution and the historical circumstances that gave birth to it. “We cannot disregard the abundant history of political and legal thought left to us by the great political thinkers… through their contributions to the theory of the state and of constitutional law,” commented Núñez when he inaugurated the Assembly on January 9, 1985.
The Sub-Commission on National Consultation is hearing the constitutional proposals made by parliamentary and extra-parliamentary political parties, unions, and religious, cultural, professional and grassroots organizations and associations. Once hearings are held with all organized sectors wishing to contribute, the first phase of the national consultation will be finished. During this phase, still ongoing, a preliminary first draft is being written, incorporating these proposals and the findings of the Commission on the Exterior. This draft will be presented to the public during the second phase of the national consultation, through a series of open forums around the country.
Finally, there is the Sub-Commission on constitutional Affairs, which works in conjunction with the other two commissions, processing and ordering their results. It is this commission that will draw up the general lines of content and character of the Constitution and will write the finished draft to be presented for debate in the Assembly. To facilitate this, the commission members are systematically studying theories on constitutional law, Nicaraguan laws written over the last six years, and the country’s previous Constitutions, all with the assistance of the National Assembly’s legal advisers.
What has been doneThe Sub-Commission on the Exterior has almost concluded its visits to other countries. In July, it visited various socialist countries, including the Soviet Union, Bulgaria, Poland, Czechoslovakia and East Germany. In August, the commission visited Argentina, Colombia, Peru, Venezuela, Costa Rica and Cuba. It was scheduled to visit Mexico as well, but had to cancel due to the devastating earthquake there. In October the Commission visited Western Europe, including Sweden, West Germany, France, England and Spain. A trip to the US is planned for December, during which the commission will attend various national seminars on constitutional law scheduled for that month.
The Sub-Commission on National Consultation has already heard the constitutional proposals of the seven political parties represented in the Assembly. Of the extra-parliamentary parties, only two have accepted the Assembly’s invitation to present their proposals: the Revolutionary Workers Party (PRT) and the Party to Reunite Central America (PUCA). Meetings have also been held with the Sandinista Workers Confederation (CST), the Agricultural Workers Association (ATC), the National Association of Teachers (ANDEN), the National Union of Farmers and Ranchers (UNAG), the Women’s Association (AMNLAE), the pro-revolution branch of the association of professionals (CONAPRO Héroes y Mártires), and the Evangelical Development Support Committee (CEPAD). Still to come are meetings with the Federation of High School Students (FES), the University Students Union (UNEN), the Sandinista Defense Committee (CDS), the Communist Workers’ Union (CAUS), among others. The various constitutional proposals are being published or broadcast through all media.
The Nicaraguan Workers’ Union, a Social-Christian based union, requested a hearing with the commission but cancelled at the last moment. The Coordinadora parties (which abstained from the November elections), the AFL-CIO affiliated Confederation of Trade Union Unity (CUS), the Supreme Council of Private Enterprise (COSEP) and the Catholic Church all refrained from contributing to the national consultation.
On October 26, during its eighth plenary session, the Special Commission approved its schedule for the months of November, December and January. Most important on the agenda is the second phase of the national consultation. The open forums, to be held all over the country, will begin in December and continue through January.
In his evaluation of the process to date, Carlos Núñez remarked during this session that the proposals of the grassroots organizations emphasized more than did those of the political parties the need to give constitutional rank to “the rights for which the people struggled against Somoza.” At the next meeting of the Special Commission the parties will discuss the differences and similarities in their criteria regarding the Constitution.
Concurrent with this entire process, the people of the Atlantic Coast are being consulted extensively in preparation for the drafting of an autonomy statute by a separate 80-member commission of coastal peoples. The autonomy statute will also be ratified by the National Assembly and incorporated into the Constitution.
Similarities and differences between the political partiesThe chart included at the end of this article compares the positions of each parliamentary party on 17 key topics suggested by the Special Commission. (Envío was not able to get the proposals from the non-party organizations in time to prepare similar charts.) The phrasing is taken almost verbatim from the written proposals of each party. This comparative breakdown reveals the parties’ ideological tendencies with respect to the institutionalization of the new Nicaragua, and the relative importance each attaches to the various topics. It also suggests the topics that will surely be the causes of debate when the final draft of the Constitution reaches the floor of the Assembly.
The following summary of the chart is intended only to highlight significant positions within the spectrum of views and, when possible, where the bulk of opinion tends to fall. It does not attempt a detailed interpretation of the phraseology used by the party, nor does it necessarily distinguish those parties that have expressed no views at all on a given topic.
Fundamental principlesAs mentioned earlier, the chart demonstrates basic agreement on non-alignment, a mixed economy and political pluralism. The MAP-ML is the only party to oppose these three fundamental principles, on the grounds that they would represent the institutionalization of a bourgeois-capitalist policy.
Organization of the stateThe PSN, PCN, PPSC, PLI and PACD proposed a democratic, unitary and representative state of law that would be organized into executive, legislative, judicial and electoral branches. The PLI additionally emphasized the need for a conceptual, real and effective separation between political parties, the armed forces and the Church. The FSLN’s main criterion was participatory democracy. It proposed the institutionalization of its unique 1979 program and maintained that the state must be free, sovereign and independent. The MAP-ML explicitly rejected the division of the state into separate powers, representative democracy and a presidential form of government. Instead, it proposed fundamental principles designed to defend the interests of the proletariat and to establish the rule of the masses.
Economic and agrarian policyAll the parties except the MAP-ML supported the principle of a mixed economy. The PPSC and the PSN proposed the creation of a body to plan and control the national economy. The Conservatives and the Socialists agreed on the need for the implementation of an import substitution policy. The Liberals and the Sandinistas backed the nationalization of exports. Only the FSLN proposed formalizing the “eradication of the exploitation of man by man” in constitutional language. The four parties that presented positions on agrarian reform—the PSN, PCD, MAP-ML and FSLN—agreed that it should be institutionalized. The Conservatives added that when the productivity of state lands proved deficient, they should be turned over to the private sector.
Labor policyWith the exception of the PCD, which expressed no position on the issue, all the parties proposed that every Nicaraguan has the right to a job, to form free trade unions and to strike. As to the manner in which workers would participate in production, the PSN proposed “worker’s control of production and of enterprises,” and the PLI called for a “law on co-management, especially with respect to state enterprises.”
Responsibilities of the stateAll parties except the PCD and the PCN agreed that the state is responsible for providing assistance to the population in the areas of health, education, housing and welfare. The FSLN added food provision to the list. The PPSC and the PLI, respectively, proposed that education be free of “official ideology” and “apolitical.” The MAP-ML proposed that religious education should be “extracurricular and voluntary.”
Atlantic CoastUnder a category titled “Territory,” the PSN, the MAP-ML and the FSLN supported concepts of autonomy for the Atlantic Coast. The PCN opposed the inclusion of an autonomy statute in the Constitution, fearing it would jeopardize territorial integrity, and the PLI proposed greater autonomy “of the territories” without specifying the Atlantic Coast.
Foreign policyAll the parties, again excepting the MAP-ML, supported the principle of non-alignment. The MAP-ML, the PLI, the PSN and the FSLN were the only parties to explicitly support the principle of self-determination; the latter two also included anti-imperialism as a principle. These same two, together with the Conservatives, proposed a policy of “inter-Americanism,” while the FSLN also postulated Central American integration and international solidarity.
Domestic political policyThe seven parties concurred on a domestic policy of political pluralism and subscribed to an electoral process open to the entire population, governed by an electoral law. The PCD, PPSC and the PCN stated their support for the present electoral law, although the PCD proposed that it be revised. The PLI specifically called for the institutionalization of the Supreme Electoral Council.
Non-party organizationsHow will the civic organizations and the armed forces fit into this framework of political pluralism? For the Socialists, Liberals and Conservatives, all civic organizations should be apolitical and non-partisan. The Conservatives also suggest that existing organizations suspend their activities until a law is drafted regulating their formation and function. The PPSC proposes that organizations be democratic, pluralistic, voluntary and autonomous from the state. The Communists simply endorsed the agreement reached on civic organizations at the top-level meeting of political parties held on October 1984. The FSLN was the only party to postulate unrestricted organization, whereas the MAP-ML proposed the formation of a “Worker’s Council” to oversee organizations. With the exception of the PPSC, which took no position, all parties agreed that the function of the armed forces is national defense and that military service to that end is obligatory. The PCD and the PLI stated that the armed forces should be apolitical and non-partisan.
The ConstitutionThe PSN, the PCD and the PLI sustained that the Constitution should be revised when necessary, while the PPSC proposed that it not be subject to any reform for a period of ten years. The PCD listed 16 laws it would like to see receive constitutional status. While all seven parties agreed on the need for a body to control the enforcement of the Constitution, they did not agree on what this body should be. The Socialists proposed a Court of constitutional Guarantees, the Conservatives and Communists some form of constitutional Tribunal. For the PPSC, the enforcing body should be the National Assembly itself, and for the Liberals, the existing Supreme Court of Justice. The FSLN stated that the workers themselves should see to the enforcement of the Constitution, and the MAP-ML more specifically proposed its idea of a Workers’ Council.
National dignity: A new root of sovereigntyUS aggression and the resulting survival economy do not provided the best context for Nicaraguan society to draft a new Constitution creatively. Despite the obvious limitations, however, the process is a very important step along the path towards reshaping Nicaragua’s power relations.
With the overthrow of the Somoza dictatorship, Nicaraguan society left behind the stage in its history when the legitimacy of political organization and social interaction was rooted in the values of property and wealth, and in the supposed guarantee that the state would look after the best interests of its citizenry (the “common good”). The perpetuation of this legitimacy depended on the stability of the traditional social order, maintained by whatever form of government necessary. Only those with long-term access to the means of production, wealth and high culture—access that came either with a traditional surname or with an unscrupulous assault on the corridors of elite power—could aspire to rule over this social order. The special legitimacy of such rulers was consecrated through their friendship with those even higher up and more powerful—US financial or government leaders.
In the months before July 1979, last-ditch attempts were made to prop up this traditional system of values, so clearly in crisis. The Sandinistas’ direct assault on the seat of power, Somoza’s growing international isolation and his inability to control the economy, were creating a full blown crisis of the system itself. The last attempt to restore the hegemony of these values was a series of projects which would create, in effect, “somocismo without Somoza.” All of these projects were supported, if not proposed, by the Carter administration.
In the six years since the revolution, Nicaragua’s social order has gained a new source of legitimacy. The continual call to peoples’ dignity to confront the problems of revolutionary transformation has given birth to new roots of sovereignty. It is not sovereignty based exclusively on the mediation of the government, but is exercised through cooperation between the government and the recent power of the grassroots organizations. The orientation of revolutionary state power toward the interests of the people has facilitated the flowering of a different civil society, with a proliferation of grassroots organizations, production cooperatives and cultural organizations. This new social organization has taken the lead away from the closed elitist society that collapsed on July 19, 1979, although many holdovers from that old society continue to live in Nicaragua.
National dignity, growing out of this shared exercise of sovereignty, has replaced the prestige previously assigned to property, wealth, government position and the culture of the few as a source of legitimacy. Ironically, the unrelenting US aggression has spurred the maturation of this process. The great majority of Nicaraguans, for centuries relegated to second class citizenship, have felt respected for the first time. This is enhanced by the fact that the traditionally coercive character of the state apparatus has been greatly reduced given the state’s orientation towards workers’ interests. Within the broader national dignity, then, social dignity is also flourishing for the majority of the population. This is a totally revolutionary change in values.
A new hegemony and a new legitimacyIt is evident that Nicaragua is an impoverished country. A contributing factor is the combination of abundant land and scarce population, which is not conducive to certain type of economic development. Much more important are other favors such as the lack of rational modernization, extremely low levels of technical skills, the lack of a tradition of scientific apprenticeship, a deeply rooted passivity and paternalism, the dispersion and isolation of a good percentage of the rural population, the disproportionate size of the capital (even compared to the capitals of other Central American countries), the unbalanced trade relations between the city and the countryside (largely a product of Somoza’s time), the relative dearth of professionals, etc.
Such poverty becomes even more acute when a population is facing the disruption involved in constructing a revolutionary development project than when it is struggling to topple an unjust and elitist one. The US backed counterrevolutionary war has not only set back long-term development projects, it has also impaired immediate social transformation in education, health and housing by destroying primary resources. Despite great advances in literacy, health care, food supply and agrarian reform, Nicaragua’s new economic development with social justice cannot yet provide much material improvement.
The population has received few benefits compared to the expectations awakened by the legitimization of this new social order. Nonetheless, neither scarcities, price speculation, a decrease in real wages—a “war tax,” as the aggression-induced inflation is sometimes called—nor general penury and sacrifice have led the population to blame the economic crisis on incompetence or complicit injustice on the part of the revolutionary leaders.
It is true that a significant number of the country’s young men are evading the draft, some even leaving the country. It is also true that there is public discontent with the bureaucracy that plagues various branches of government administration. Yet in the last few years, severe economic misery in Latin America has led large sectors of the population to take to the streets in protest (Dominican Republic, 1984 and Guatemala, 1985); to loot supermarkets (Brazil, 1983 and 1984); or to repeatedly clash with security forces (Chile since 1983). Nothing remotely similar has occurred in Nicaragua, even though the risks of violent reprisal, such as has occurred in the above examples, are infinitely less. Apart from the specific situation in the Atlantic Coast, itself improving, and in the remotest rural areas that the revolution has not yet been able to reach, the majority of the Nicaraguan population sees no alternative to the revolution. The sacrifices are hard, but they seem to be borne as the cost of dignity and national and social liberation.
The logical conclusion of this hypothesis is that in the midst of conflict, a new hegemony of values is being consolidated. It is this value system of national and social dignity, belonging to the people, that the constitutional process is expected to institutionalize. When the FSLN, in its proposal, asks for the incorporation into the Constitution of “the rights for which the people struggled against Somoza,” it is formulating a new “common good” and demonstrating a new social truth: the majority of Nicaraguans today define as being “in their best interests” the irreversibility of the dignity and respect they won in the revolution.
A new state of law is desired that recognizes the crossing of this frontier and sanctifies it with the symbols of legal constitutional language. It is a conversion of values previously considered “subversive”—national independence and worker’s rights—into the genuine values of a new social order.
The debate on hegemony: An important educational processSpeaking to the First Congress of Anti-imperialist Thought, Comandante Bayardo Arce of the FSLN National Directorate defined the Sandinista project as consisting of “a mixed economy, political pluralism, genuine non-alignment and participatory democracy.” Normally only the first three principles have been emphasized. The fourth, participatory democracy, expresses in political terms the very nucleus of the new sources of legitimacy in Nicaraguan society. The principle that most clearly parallels this in international terms is non-alignment—the expression of the paramount value of national dignity in foreign policy. This is the meaning of statements such as this by Nicaragua’s President: “We would like to be received in Washington with the same respect that we are received in Moscow.”
A mixed economy and political pluralism, on the other hand, constitute the creative efforts by which a state oriented primarily towards workers’ interests tries to bring other social classes into a pact of national unity. This unity permits development projects to be as effective as possible and political organization projects to be carried out with a minimum of conflict.
It has escaped no one’s attention, however, that participatory democracy, when combined with the new economic orientation of the state, will lead over time to a logical shift of managers of private capital into administrators of public enterprises, and to a more social orientation of the profits from production. Similarly, participatory democracy, together with the state power authenticated in the elections, will lead to the logical adaptation of political pluralism and to the reversal of pre-revolutionary power relations.
The drafting of the Constitution, particularly the consultations with the parties and organizations and the open meetings with all sectors of the population, is in fact a social debate on the legal ordering of the new hegemony. The more open and less sectarian this debate, the greater the possibility that the rules of the game will express flexible agreements between interests, a greater degree of consensus, and less coercive use of political power in the future. If this massive consultation manages to involve a majority of the population, it could be another important lesson for Nicaraguans on how to work together, as well as how to confront each other during the long process of constructing the new Nicaragua. In other words, it could be as transcendent as the electoral process, the literacy campaign, or the insurrection itself, all recent examples of Nicaraguans’ capacity to undertake a challenge of this caliber.
The inexperienced National Assembly, for its part, still carries the mortgage of historic political practice in Nicaragua. A temptation to drown debate in the heavy-handed use of power, for example, has not been completely shaken. Submission to arbitrary rule and the devaluation of political rights to which Nicaraguans had grown accustomed during the long decades of dictatorship still remain, hindering many sectors of the population from feeling genuinely called upon to participate in the constitutional process. Similar impediments existed at the beginning of the literacy campaign and the election process. In response, creative learning techniques and mechanisms for participation using a collective teaching methodology were developed with positive results. The consultation on autonomy for the Atlantic Coast is also attempting to awaken similar participatory energy.
There is still a long way to go before the outlines of the Nicaraguan Constitution become clear. The political parties offer few guidelines for the legal forms that could give institutional structure to participatory democracy. Will some type of People’s Assembly arise, a Council of Workers, a parliament of grassroots organizations and guilds? And if such an initiative flourishes, can it be effectively coordinated with the National Assembly, the pole of representative democracy? Will the interpretation of the Constitution be in the hands of the electoral power, the Supreme Court or the National Assembly? Or will a new autonomous state body be created to act as a constitutional Tribunal? Above all, will the result be a Constitution which stabilizes fundamental values while maintaining the capacity for change in a society that wants to continue critically examining its own instructions in order to adapt them to a changing reality? The answers to these questions will determine if Nicaragua will continue to be “a new point of reference in the realization of the social change that the Third World needs,” as Bayardo Arce affirmed in the aforementioned speech.
The constitutional process is laboring not only under the harsh weight imposed by the survival economy and the war, but also the continued abstention of the Catholic hierarchy and the parties and unions that boycotted the electoral process. Does their silence presage a rejection of the product that will emerge from this process? If so, it would only increase the level of conflict during the construction of the new social order.
It is to be hoped that the recent broadening of the state of emergency will not lead these sectors to reject the Constitution. In the end, the laws of all countries include emergency clauses, applicable when a given social project is perceived to be at risk. Time will tell if the application of this state of emergency is justified. The final response as to the legitimacy of this decision and of the whole revolutionary project is in the hands of the majority of the population for whom the new Constitution is being written.
It is not by chance that the Reagan administration is reinforcing the pretensions of the counterrevolution, itself inspired by the US government, and places as a condition for the renewal of bilateral talks the dissolution of the present National Assembly. Nothing could better symbolize its refusal to recognize the new hegemony emerging in Nicaragua. In sum, nothing shows more clearly what has been and continues to be at risk: Nicaragua’s claim to sovereign dignity.
CONSTITUTIONAL PROPOSALS OF THE SEVEN PARLIAMENTARY PARTIES
I.- FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLESPSN: Political pluralism, protected and regulated by laws. ** Democratic exercise of national sovereignty. ** Unconditional respect for all human rights. Unity and self-determination. ** Mixed economy.
PCD:The Constitution should respond to, foment, developt and modernize the traditional values and idiosyncracies immanent in nationality; reunite Nicaraguan family divided by ideological concepts and the struggle for political power; encourage expressions of aspiration to real power through constant dialogue. ** Constitution should be normative, establishing not only legal but true order; verifiable; self-propelling, the exercise of its principles depending solely and exclusively on the Constitution itself; fluid, preventing the dynamic of power from stagnating in the hands of the incumbent.
PPSC: Union of Nicaragua’s current social and political reality and the Constitution. ** Definition of Nicaragua as a State of Law that sustains the superior values of its legal order on social and political pluralism, mixed economic and non-alignment.
MAP-ML: The principles of the Constitution should favor the interests of the proletariat. ** Anti-imperalism.
PLI: Political pluralism. ** Mixed Economy. ** International non-alignment. ** Equality before the law. ** Separation of powers. ** Real and effective separation of the State from the political parties. ** Non-partisanship of the Armed Forces. ** Freedom of political, civil and union association. ** Freedom of conscience and religion. ** Freedom of the press. ** Separation of Church and State.
FC de N: Create political and legal framework guaranting all democratic changes necessary to guide country in overcoming its problems, bring it out of present crisis and lead to social and economic development. ** Independence. ** Sovereignty. ** Territorial unity. ** Self-determination. ** Democracy and the peaceful development of Nicaragua.
FSLN: Effective participatory democracy. ** Non-alignment. ** Political pluralism. ** Mixed economy. ** Institutionalization of the FSLN’s original 1979 program.
II. – ORGANIZATION OF THE STATEPSN: A legally constituted State, democratic, social, popular, revolutionary, independent, and sovereign. ** A republican and representative, indivisible and decentralized form of government. ** Executive, legislative, judicial and electoral divisions of power.
PCN: An indivisible, legally constituted State. ** Centralized executive, legislative, judicial and electoral functions. ** Administrative autonomy for the municipalities and regions. ** A democratic State based on popular sovereignty exercised through a legitimately elected representative. ** A social State than assumes the commitment of not passively permitting conflicts between individuals and classes, but assures the wellbeing of all. ** A multi-class State based on the participation of all sectors of the country. ** A State of multiple ideologies. ** Mixed economy. ** Non-alignment.
PPSC: Division of powers into executive, legislative, judicial and electoral branches. ** A presidential form of government.
ORGANIZATION OF THE STATE (cont.)MAP-ML: Rejection of liberal-bourgeois principles as expressed in a presidential system, the “division of power”, and so-called representative democracy. ** Institutionalization of the people’s hegemony.
PLI: A republican, sovereign, independent, democratic and representative State. ** A presidential form of government. ** Division of powers into executive, legislative, judicial and electoral branches.
PC de N: A republican and parliamentary State with legislative, executive and judicial powers. ** An Electoral Law defined within the Constitution.
FSLN: An indivisible, democratic State with electoral mechanisms to ensure participation of all national sectors. ** A State in which the political will, legislation and adequate mechanisms shall exist to guarantee individual, civil, political, economic and cultural rights of all Nicaraguans. ** A sovereign, free and independent State.
III. – RIGHTS, DUTIES AND GUARANTEES*(* Parties that are not included in certain charts have expressed no opinion on that topic.)
PSN: Incorporate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, International Pact of into the Constitution, as well as other laws in effect. ** Periodic replacement of representatives and elected authorities. ** Full freedom of conscience, religion and religious education. ** Separation of Church and State. ** Prohition of any obligatory ideology or religion. ** Laws are not retroactive, except in matters of sentencing when it benefits the delinquent. ** Other rights which the Constitution and the law shall specifically establish.
PCD: Incorporate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, International Pact of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the International Pact of Civil and Political Rights (all part of the Fundamental Statutes) into the Constitution. ** Special Rights for Children. ** Health Rights.
PPSC: Freedom of association and assembly. ** Freedom of the press. ** Others.
MAP-ML: Real and effective equality between men and women in the exercising of their rights and in economic, political and social life.
PLI: Right to life and to the physical and moral integrity of individuals. (Prohibition of the death penalty, torture and other inhumane forms of treatment). ** Inviolability of the home, correspondence, the dissemination of thought, conscience and religion. ** Right to peaceful assembly, association and movement. ** Right to elect and be elected to public offices. ** Free use of personal and patrimonial goods. ** Equality before the law. ** Right to public trial. ** Laws are not retroactive, except in matters of sentencing when it benefits the delinquent. ** Habeus Corpus. ** Right to work. ** Maternity and children’s rights.
FSLN: Freedom of religion. ** Legislation and adequate mechanisms to guarantee individual, civil, political, economic and cultural rights; the rights the heroic people of Sandino fought for. ** Right to health, education, housing, public services and basic needs. ** Right of workers and peasants to access to mass media.
IV.- FOREIGN POLICYPSN: Non-alignment. ** Anti-imperialism. ** Self-determination.
PCD: Non-alignment. ** Inter-Americanism.
PPSC: Non-alignment. ** Prohibition of Nicaragua’s participation in military alliances. ** Prohibition of construction of military bases on Nicaragua territory. ** Policy of non-involvement in internal affairs of other countries.
MAP-ML: Rejection of non-alignment. ** Prohibition of construction of military bases on Nicaraguan territory to insure self-determination.
PLI: Non-alignment. ** Respect for self-determination of peoples. ** Absolute equality between nations. ** Compliance with duly ratified international treaties.
PC de N: Non-alignment.
FSLN : Non-alignment. ** Respect for self-determination of peoples. ** Central American integration. ** Latin American unity. ** Acceptance of Contadora Treaty. International solidarity. ** Relations with all nations. ** Anti-imperialism.
V.- NATIONAL ECONOMYPSN: Mixed economy based on state, public, mixed, cooperative, personal and/or familial property. ** Economic development through national planning. ** A National Supreme Economic Council shall be established with the participation of representatives from all economic sectors. ** Prioritization of production for popular needs and consumption, export production, and substitution of imports. ** Prohibition of monopolies. ** Free commerce subject to public supervision. ** The State is responsible for import and export commerce. ** Formulation of a Foreign Investment Law.
PCD: Mixed economy based on state, private, joint, personal and family property. ** Promotion of exports coupled with import substitution.
PPSC: Mixed economy based on private, state, and cooperative property. ** Clear delineation of area to be nationalized. ** Creation of area of workers property. ** Creation of a National Planning Council. ** Free internal commerce. ** External commerce controlled by the State.
PC de N: Mixed economy guaranteeing private, state, cooperative, and family property.
FSLN: Mixed economy. ** Eradication of the exploitation of man by man. ** Nationalization of exports, banks and natural resources. ** State ownership of the holdings confiscated from Somocistas and their accomplices.
VI.- DEFENSE AND NATIONAL SECURITYPSN: Armed Forces are responsible for national defense and their Commander-in-Chief is the President. ** Native and naturalized citizens have a duty to participate in nation’s defense under the law.
PCD: Non-partisan, non-political Armed Forces, for national defense against foreign threat or to maintain domestic law and order. ** Armed Forces shall be subordinate to civil power and not exceed 10% of the population between 24 and 34 years of age. ** Nicaraguans have the duty and right to defend Nicaragua. ** Obligatory military service with exceptions, including conscientious objection.
MAP-ML: Institutionalization of Popular Militias as major and fundamental form of organized defense.
PLI: Non-partisan, non-political Armed Forces, solely for the defense of national sovereignty. ** Active mandatory military service only in the event of foreign aggression. ** Members of the Armed Forces are not eligible to run for office.
PC de N: Armed Forces shall have a national character and denomination. ** They shall defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity. ** Obligatory military service.
FSLN: Institutionalization of right of Nicaraguan people to organize into Sandinista Popular Army, Sandinista Police and the Popular Militias in defense of the nation and of people’s rights.
VII.- NATIONAL TERRITORYPSN: National territory is inviolable, indivisible, inalienable and impresciptable; encompassing soil, sub-soil, territorial waters and airspace. ** Administrative division of country by regions, departments, and municipalities. ** Recognition of existence of autonomous territories for communities with particular ethnic, linguistic, historical and cultural characteristics. ** The Constitution shall recognize and guarantee rights of self-government and self-determination to the ethnic communities of the Atlantic Coast.
PCD: Nicaragua consists of the national territory as defined in the Utis Possdetis Juris of 1821 and adjacent islands, shoals, headlands, and banks; submarine shelfs, territorial sea and airspace, and continental platform. ** Autonomous territories, subject to a special law of Constitutional character.
MAP-ML: Right to autonomous administration for communities and populations of the Atlantic Coast, with respect to fruitful use of communal lands necessary for local development.
PLI: Separation by departments and municipalities. ** Municipal administrative autonomy. ** Logical administrative decentralization with adequate coordination with the central government. ** Territorial autonomy shall be understood with greater amplitude and flexibility in the cultural, social and ethnic areas. ** Indigenous communities shall be protected against internal colonialism.
PC de N: Autonomy of the Atlantic Coast, in the sense of a region and government autonomous from the central government of the Republic, should not be established within the Supreme Law of the nation since that would jeopardize Nicaragua’s unity and would in no way benefit Miskitos and other ethnic groups.
FSLN: Autonomy for the Atlantic Coast to strengthen the unity of the nation.
VIII.- LABOR POLICYPSN: Right to employment and its just, obligatory remuneration; State shall guarantee necessary material conditions for work. ** Maximun 8-hour day and 48-week year. ** Right to strike. ** Trade-union democracy and right to organize. ** Worker control over production and management. ** Minimum substance wage and cost of living adjustment. ** Decent working conditions. ** Job stability, advancement and administrative careers for public employees. ** Labor regulations for farm workers. ** Maternity leave and protection for working women.
PCD: Right to work. ** Labor policy designed to coordinate production with employment, and consistent with the economic situation. ** Labor policy oriented to export production, and reduction of bureaucracy. ** Labor sites should not be centers of political propaganda that stimulate low productivity.
MAP-ML: Right to employment. ** Freedom to organize trade unions and trade union democracy. ** Job stability. ** Social security. ** Salary protection. ** Right to strike.
PLI: Work is a social duty; State must guarantee necessary material conditions. ** Technical education and training. ** Right to rest and tranquility. ** Right to strike. ** Free labor association. ** Job protection and stability. ** Comprehensive salary polity (cost of living increases, production incentives, etc.). ** Labor Code that facilitates solution of labor conflicts. ** Joint management, especially of state enterprises.
PC de N: Labor Code recognizing right to strike and free association.
FSLN: Eradication of the exploitation of man by man. ** Right to organize freely; workers and peasants have right to organize politically, as do other social sector. ** Education, health and other services for workers.
IX.- AGRARIAN POLICYPSN: Incorporation of Agrarian Reform Law into the Constitution, subject to revision by the National Assembly. ** Agrarian reform as the tool for transforming the rural and national socio-economic structure; directed towards the integral develop of the peasantry. ** Agrarian reform shall promote a just system of ownership, possession and use of land.
PCD: Collectivization of the land, soil, natural resources, and means of agricultural production with the end goal of socialization, by means of a law that establishes just compensation. ** State property that is not being sufficiently exploited, shall be passed to private hands.
MAP-ML: Development of agrarian reform to the detriment of large landowners rather than to State property.
PLI: Provide peasants with land for agricultural production. ** Protection and stimulus for freely associated cooperatives, with credit and technical assistance from the State. ** Short and medium term conversion of Agrarian Reform Titles into Private Properties Titles.
FSLN: Agrarian Reform as a Constitutional principle so that all peasants may own their own parcel of land.
X.- MASS ORGANIZATIONS, GUILDS AND ASSOCIATIONSPSN: Community and neighborhood organizations based on participatory and elective will of the citizens. ** Should have a social function and non-partisan character. ** Creation of Social Organization Law to regulate this Constitutional provision.
PCD: Should be non-political. ** Public activities of all such organizations, guilds, and associations should be suspended until a Regulatory Law is drafted and passed.
PPSC: Pluralistic social organizations based on autonomy from the State, voluntary participation and internal democracy.
MAP-ML: Creation of a Worker’s Council to guarantee protection of rights of working masses.
PLI: Non-partisan and exclusively aimed at achievement of social or group goals, without regard to ideology of their members. ** Private by nature; this should be clearly expressed to avoid confusions concerning revolutionary jurisprudence. ** Completely autonomous from any organ of power or any political power.
PC de N: Reaffirm agreement reached at Political Parties Summit held in October 1984.
FSLN: Right of popular (mass), labor and social groups to freely organize.
XI. HEALTH, HOUSING, EDUCATION, CULTURE, SOCIAL SECURITY AND WELFAREPSN: State is obliged to insure the human, technical, material and financial resources guaranteeing the right to health. ** Housing is a right; The State shall promote a rational plan for constructing of housing, setting up a partnership of the public and private sectors, housing cooperatives and personal and family endeavors. ** Promotion and development of a secular, free and compulsory public education based on scientific, patriotic, and democratic principles, suited to the socio-economic needs of the country. ** Autonomous universities and freedom of religious education. The State shall formulate a cultural policy that permits the popular development of literature, art and authentic national folklore. ** Incorporation of the pertinent clauses of the Statute of the Rights and Guarantees of Nicaraguans, as well as the Social Security and Welfare Law now in effect.
PCD: Executive should establish basic policies and make the necessary revisions.
PPSC: Education completely free of any official ideology. ** Autonomous universities. ** freedom of religious education.
MAP-ML: Scientific education. ** Voluntary, extracurricular religious education, administered outside of the schools. ** Social security.
PLI: Creation of a national health system. ** Free exercise of private medicine. ** State shall provide each citizen with a dignified home, prioritizing construction of low-income housing. ** State education shall be free, secular and nonpartisan. ** State shall guarantee private education in religious or secular schools. ** Prioritization of technical careers in agriculture. ** Autonomous universities. ** The State shall safeguard and promote awareness of the nations’s historal heritage. ** Conservation and development of ethnic culture and native customs, folklore and languages. ** Protection of artists’ rights and promotion of their activities. ** Promotrion of Social Security throughout the nation. ** Equitable pensions for the retired and disabled not protected by social security. ** Guarantee transportation to and from work.
FSLN: State shall provide the workers with health, education, housing, basic foods, and public services.
XII.- POLITICAL PARTY SYSTEMPSN: Incorporation of the Law of Political Parties, subject to revision by the National Assembly. ** Political pluralism. ** Parties shall be the fundamental instrument for the political participation of the citizenry.
PCD: Political parties shall participate in the formation of the political will of the people. ** Parties shall be freely created in agreement with specified laws. ** Pluralistic parties with democratic internal structures and procedures. ** Parties will be considered unconstitutional if their goals or actions threaten freedom, democracy, the existence of the Republic, or the rights of the populace.
PPSC: Political pluralism based on social pluralism.
MAP-ML: Rejection of political pluralism.
PLI: Political pluralism. ** The political parties are social organizations of public order and shall be regulated by the electoral law.
PC de N: Political pluralism. ** Guarantee the existence of the parties in accordance with the law.
FSLN: Political pluralism.
XIII.- ELECTORAL SYSTEMPSN: Pluralistic electoral power. ** Voting is a duty of every citizen; mandotary registration. ** State financing for the campaigns of the parties. ** Effective guarantees of order, impartiality, secrecy, integrity, and freedom of suffrage. ** Guarantee of proportional representation for minority parties.
PCD: Direct suffrage. ** Revision of the current Electoral Law.
PPSC: Incorporation of the present Electoral Law. ** No re-election of the President.
PLI: Proportional representation. ** Equal access to finances and publicity for all parties. ** Electoral Tribunal that will form the electoral power shall be constituted on a multi-party basis at all levels. ** The Supreme Electoral Council shall be appointed by the Supreme Court of Justice.
PC de N: Parliamentary, presidential and municipal elections. ** Incorporate the Electoral Law.
FSLN: Create electoral mechanisms that guarantee the participation of all sectors of the population.
XIV.- EFORCEMENT AND EXECUTION OF THE CONSTITUTIONPSN: A Court of Constitutional Guarantees shall be established.
PCD: Creation of a Constitutional Tribunal to hear al complaints of unconstitutionality brought by the people against the public power.
PPSC: The parliament shall be responsible for this function.
MAP-ML: Worker’s Council shall create mechanisms for guaranteeing rights.
PLI: Complaints of unconstitutionality shall be heard by the Supreme Court of Justice.
PC de N: Creation of a Tribunal of Constitutional Guarantees, with its own organic law and operational capacity.
FSLN: Workers and peasants shall be the source and guarantee of popular power.
XV.- CONSTITUTIONAL REFORMPSN: Amendments to the constitution shall be initiated by the President of the Republic, National Assembly, Supreme Court of Justice, or petitions bearing the names of 50,000 citizens duly verified by Supreme Electoral Council. ** All constitutional reforms must be submitted to a referendum.
PCD: A flexible system for Constitutional reform by a qualified majority.
PPSC: Constitutional reform prohibited for ten years. ** After that, reforms must be approved by a two-thirds vote of the National Assembly then submitted to referendum.
PLI: Total reform of the Constitution shall be prohibited. ** Parcial reforms shall be submitted to a plebiscite.
XVI.- OTHERSPSN: Referendum: Political and legislative decisions of special significance shall be submitted to a national referendum. ** Referendums can be called by the President at his own initiative, with approval of the National Assembly, or by later with two-thirds vote of its members.
PCD: The Constitution should contain principles governing the following laws: Fundamental Statute of the Republic; statute governing the Rights and Guarantees of Nicaraguans; Law of Appeal for Freedom and Personal Security; Law of Appeal; Law of Political Parties; Electoral Law; Law of Nationality; Law of Pardon; Patriotic Military Service Law; Law of Immunity; Law of Legal Status; the General Statute of the National Assembly; Rental Law; Law of Cooperatives; organic Law of Tribunals.
PPSC: Unicameral parliament with the following facultaties: review of the national budget; exclusive and untransferable legislative functions; review of international treaties; review of any governmental transaction involving the transfer of the country’s goods; other faculties.
MAP-ML: Creation of a Worker’s Council.
PLI: Establish as laws of Constitutional rank: The Electoral Law; The Law of the Mixed Economy; The Law of Appeal; The Law of State of Emergency; The Law for the Supremacy of the Constitution, to regulate corresponding Constitutional dispositions. ** For their formation and reform, the same procedures shall be followed as for the Constitution.
PC de N: Complete separation of Church and State, and Church and education. ** Promulgation of a strict Law of Integrity (against misuse of State funds and public property).
FSLN: The principle of veneration of heroes and martyrs; recognition of and support to the parents of heroes and martyrs and recognition of those men and women who have excelled as patriots.