Nicaragua’s opposition parties this week broadened their coalition against the government of President Daniel Ortega to include right-wing parties and former Contra rebels ahead of elections set for next year.

Members of Nicaragua’s new National Coalition cheer as opposition parties sign a formal agreement to join forces to defeat leftist President Daniel Ortega in elections set for next year© AFP INTI OCON

Officials from seven parties formally signed an agreement forming a “national coalition” against Ortega’s 13-year rule. “These seven organizations are taking the initial step of shaping the National Coalition to rebuild democracy,” according to a statement read by one of the leaders, former political prisoner Yubrank Suazo.

The ruling Sandinista party, Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional (FSLN),  has not ruled out the possibility of Ortega standing for a fourth consecutive term.

Critics accuse Ortega of running a repressive dictatorship whose crackdown on protests in 2018 left at least 300 people dead, according to rights groups.

The demonstrations, initially over social security reforms, turned into a nationwide protest against Ortega. “It was a rebellion against the collapse of social security, corruption, the abuse of power and nepotism,” the new coalition said in a statement.

The signing ceremony took place amid anti-government chants by opposition supporters.

The coalition includes prominent opposition groups including the Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy (ACJD) and the Blue and White National Unit (UNAB), which emerged after the 2018 anti-government protests.

It also includes a campesino (peasant) movement formed to fight the canal project that is now dead in the water, as well as the Yatama indigenous party.

The Nicaraguan Democratic Force, a group of Contra ex-combatants who fought Ortega’s Sandinistas in the 1980s, has also joined the coalition. “Today is a historic day because we have signed a firm commitment of unity — it is the birth certificate of the National Coalition,” said opposition leader Carlos Tunnermann.

He said the “the doors are open” for other parties to join forces with the coalition. “We are waiting for you with open arms because right now, what this country is asking for is unity.”

Ortega’s wife and vice-president, Rosario Murillo, blasted the opposition for its “insolence and criminal machinations” in a statement on Monday.

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