State and politics
According to the 1987 Constitution (revised by 2000),
political power is shared between the President and the
National Assembly. The president is elected in direct
elections for five years. If no candidate receives at least
35% of the vote, a second round of voting takes place. The
president may be re-elected but not for the subsequent term
of office. The National Assembly's 90 members are elected in
proportional elections for five years, but a small mandate
also goes to the presidential and vice presidential
candidates who have achieved a certain proportion of votes.
Nicaragua is divided into 15 departments and two autonomous
The largest parties are Frente Sandinista de
Liberación Nacional (FSLN) and the right-wing party
Partido Liberal Constitucionalista (PLC), which
together achieved a kind of bipartisan system in Nicaragua.
However, both parties are deeply divided internally and in
fact consist of different groupings around leading party
personalities such as Daniel Ortega in the FSLN and Arnoldo
Alemán in the PLC. In 2006, President Enrique Bolaños broke
up with his own party PLC and formed Alianza por la
República (APRE). An important breaker group from the
FSLN is Movimiento Renovador Sandinista (MRS). The
Sandinists succeeded after repeated attempts to restore the
presidential power, which was lost in 1990 to a right-wing
alliance, in the November 2006 elections. See also History.
The legal rules are in principle codified. The most
important codifications are the Civil Code, the Civil
Procedure Act, the Trade Act, the Criminal Code, the
Criminal Procedure Act and the Labor Act. The public courts
consist of small-scale courts, district courts, appellate
courts and a supreme court. The death penalty was abolished
in 1979; the last execution took place in 1930. See ABBREVIATIONFINDER for how NI can stand for Nicaragua.
Nicaragua is one of the poorest countries in Latin
America and is characterized by an uneven distribution of
resources. The people have suffered significantly during the
regime change of the last decades from the dictatorship of
Anastasio Somoza's dictator and further through the
socialist regime under Daniel Ortega 1979–90.
Several social reforms were indeed introduced during
Ortega's regime and the foundations were laid for democratic
development, but the development was hampered by the violent
civil war between the government- friendly Sandinists and
the US-backed contras (see History).
Since Ortega again became head of state in 2007, the
government has shown increasing authoritarian tendencies and
the space for opposition players and civil society
organizations has decreased. Corruption combined with
reduced transparency facilitates organized crime in the
country and poses a threat to legal security.
The right to freedom of expression and pressure is
prescribed in the constitution and Nicaragua is reported to
have a relatively free media climate according to Reporters
Without Borders, which places Nicaragua in place 74 of 180
countries in the Press Freedom Index 2015. However,
self-censorship occurs in connection with investigative
journalism to avoid reprisals.
Rape and sexual violence are very common in Nicaragua and
the majority of victims are girls and young women. However,
the Government's ambition to promote women's increased
political participation and representation has yielded
results and the proportion of women in Parliament in 2012
was 40 percent.
Nicaragua has no state religion but the position of the
Catholic Church is strong in the country and influences
politics on issues such as women's reproductive rights. One
consequence of this is that abortion was criminalized in
2008. The punishment for women and girls who undergo
abortion, as well as for the medical staff who perform it,
is prison. Complications after illegal abortions are
estimated to be one of the most common causes of death among
women of childbearing age.
Prostitution is a common occurrence and human trafficking
as well as sexual commercial exploitation of children and
especially young women is a growing problem. Especially
affected are girls 13-17 years.
Child labor occurs and reports show that 8 percent of
children between the ages of 5 and 14 work on coffee,
tobacco and sugar plantations. The law prohibits children
under 14 from working which is not complied with. Violence
and sexual abuse directed at children are common.
Discrimination on the grounds of ethnic affiliation has
been punished since 2007, but in practice the indigenous
peoples receive inadequate healthcare, low educational
standards and poor infrastructure. Poverty and economic
inequality are widespread in the regions dominated by
The law prohibits discrimination on the grounds of
disability, but in practice access to education, work and
health care for persons with disabilities is limited.
Heads of State
Presidents (from 1893)
||José Santos Zelaya
||José Dolores Estrada
||Juan José Estrada
||Diego Manuel Chamorro
||José María Moncada
||Juan Bautista Sacasa
||Anastasio Somoza d.ä.
||Anastasio Somoza d.ä.
||Anastasio Somoza you
||junta under Somoza's control
||Anastasio Somoza you
||junta under Sandinist control
||Violeta de Chamorro