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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Ex-presidential rival to run for Ecuador assembly

June 18, 2007

QUITO (Reuters) - Ecuador's richest man and former presidential candidate Alvaro Noboa will seek election to an assembly that will rewrite the country's constitution and oppose President Rafael Correa's plans, a Noboa ally said on Monday.

Noboa, a 56-year-old banana tycoon, lost to Correa in last year's face-off presidential election in which he received 43 percent of the votes.

"We want to use that percentage to keep Correa from winning a majority in the assembly," said Gloria Gallardo, a former lawmaker and senior member of Noboa's party.

"We will defend companies and individual freedoms from Correa's 21st century socialism," she added.

Elections for the 130 seats in the constitutional assembly will be held on September 30.

Correa, an ally of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, said he wants the assembly to curtail the powers of traditional political parties in the judiciary and state firms. He also wants to strip powers from Congress, widely blamed by Ecuadoreans for toppling three presidents in a decade.

Noboa's Institutional Renewal Party of National Action lead a fierce opposition to Correa in Congress until most of its lawmakers were fired in March for trying to block his plans to create the assembly.

Correa is supporting his former energy minister and close adviser Alberto Acosta to lead his party's list of candidates for the September assembly elections.

Political pundits expect the charismatic Correa to win a majority in the assembly by using his popularity and ties with influential Indian groups.

Noboa will make his candidacy official later on Monday, Gallardo said.

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