The people of Ecuador are rising up to refound their country as a pluri-national homeland for all. This inspiring movement, with Ecuador's indigenous peoples at its heart, is part of the revolution spreading across the Americas, laying the groundwork for a new, fairer, world. Ecuador Rising aims to bring news and analysis of events unfolding in Ecuador to english speakers.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Ecuador Set To Move Toward Radical Change In Referendum

Playfuls, April 10, 2007
Ecuador's newly-installed left-wing president is taking his case to the people on Sunday in a referendum to form a Constituent Assembly that would rewrite the country's constitution - and possibly alienate much of the country's entrenched power elite.

The election comes as populist President Rafael Correa is locked in a struggle with the sitting congress over its refusal to back his call for a Constituent Assembly to change the country's moribund political institutions.

Various opinion polls have indicated that around 80 per cent of the voters are likely to favour forming the assembly.

The call to the referendum has led to a severe political crisis in Ecuador in recent weeks.

After being rebuffed by Congress, Correa got support from the electoral authority for Sunday's referendum, triggering another institutional conflict.

The standoff has brought work by the National Congress to a halt for close to a month and provoked several episodes of minor violence. Congress, angry at the electoral authority, tried to dismiss the electoral tribunal president.

The electoral tribunal in turn revoked the mandates of 57 of the 100 members of the National Congress. Those legislators were replaced by their substitutes amid criticism from their own political parties.

In the referendum, some 9 million Ecuadorians are expected to vote on the single question of whether or not to establish a Constituent Assembly with full powers according to a lengthy statute of regulations drafted by the government.

The proposal will be approved if it gets 50 per cent of the votes plus one, and the resulting Assembly would be the nineteenth such organ held in Ecuador since 1979.

If approved, the Assembly is set to be made up of 130 delegates meeting over a 180-day period, with a 60-day extension possible. All of the organ's decisions would then have to be approved in another referendum.

Correa, 44, is the country's eighth president within ten years and now lies before the challenge of completing his four-year mandate - something that Ecuador's previous three elected presidents have failed to do.

The power base of this trained economist - a close friend of controversial Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez - is a middle class fed up with the traditional political parties.

It is significant that the two candidates in Ecuador's runoff election in late November (Correa and the richest man in the country, banana tycoon Alvaro Noboa) were populists.

Indeed, Correa himself fielded no legislative candidates in the November elections in the hope of making a clean sweep of the highly unpopular Congress, with which only 17 per cent of Ecuadorians are satisfied according to a recent opinion poll.

Some 60 per cent of the 13-million citizens of oil-rich Ecuador live in poverty.

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