Eduardo Montealegre

photo/ Tim Rogers

Eduardo Montealegre

(posted April 7, 2:15 pm) — After years of disputing leadership of the opposition Independent Liberal Party (PLI), congressman and former presidential challenger Eduardo Montealegre was elected president of the party during its National Convention on Sunday.

With 290 of 314 votes, Montealegre was named the new president of the PLI and promised to convert the struggling opposition party into a bastion of democracy.

“The PLI should be a space to share proposals and ideas, without exclusion or division; to construct a minimal consensus and generation a national vision, an inclusive vision of nation, with the participation of everyone,” Montealegre said after getting elected.

Though the PLI’s 2011 presidential candidate, Fabio Gadea, got 31% of the vote to finish a distant second in the poll two and a half years ago, the Independent Liberal Party has had a hard time maintaining partisan loyalty since. According to public opinion poll released last December by firm M&R Consultants, less than half of the 8.3% of the population that identifies as opposition sympathizes with the PLI. In contrast, nearly 57% of the population identifies with the ruling Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN).

Montealegre hopes to rebuild some of the party’s credibility and leadership from the presidency, but he’s got a tough row to hoe. Montealegre’s leadership and public profile have diminished greatly in recent years, after losing consecutive elections in 2006 for the presidency and 2008 for the mayorship of Managua. Montealegre’s public profile was further reduced when health issues led to a bypass surgery in 2012.