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.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Ecuador to vote for assembly to reform constitution

QUITO (AFP) — Ecuadorans on Sunday vote for an assembly tasked with rewriting the constitution with opinion polls showing support for sweeping reforms proposed by leftist President Rafael Correa.

Correa, who was elected one year ago on promises of radical change, wants the assembly members who will be elected on Sunday to dissolve the unicameral Congress, which he calls "corrupt and incompetent," and boost state control of the economy.

"It's necessary to do away with the myths of neo-liberalism," Correa has said repeatedly during the campaign.

While calling for "21st century socialism" with guarantees for education and free health care, Correa has ruled out nationalizing private companies.

Pre-election polls indicate there is strong support for the wide-ranging reforms the president is seeking, and Interior Minister Gustavo Larrea said 66 to 72 of the 130 mandates would likely go to Correa supporters.

A US and European-educated former finance minister, Correa, 44, says the 130-seat Constituent Assembly will stem political instability in the South American country despite warnings his economic reforms could scare off foreign investors.

The most prominent of the 3,229 candidates is Correa's nemesis, right-wing billionaire Alvaro Noboa, who was defeated in the November presidential election.

Ecuador's wealthiest man, and a folksy politician, Noboa has invoked God's name in his electoral campaign, vowing to defeat what he says are the power ambitions of Correa, whom he calls "the communist devil."

"Correa has become a tyrant who maintains you in poverty, the tyrant who keeps you sick, the tyrant who keeps you without a home or health care. But I am here, Ecuadorans," Noboa said during his last electoral rally.

Critics claim Correa is following in the footsteps of Venezuela's leftist President Hugo Chavez, who in 1999 had successfully pushed for the election of a constituent assembly packed with his supporters.

They claim that like Chavez, Correa would use the Constituent Assembly to concentrate power in his own hands and that this would scare off foreign investors.

Controversy over the proposed constitutional reforms had sparked a deep political crisis earlier this year when a court fired half the 100 members of Congress for seeking to block the project.

Correa has called the assembly a key component of the "citizens' revolution" he says will make Ecuador a more just country, where 40 percent of wealth is concentrated in the hands of 10 percent of the 13 million population.

He believes the new constitution will help regulate the economy and end the political volatility in a country that saw seven presidents come and go in the past decade, including three who left office amid tumultuous uprisings.

Alexei Paez, an analyst at the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences, believes the make-up of the new assembly will reflect support for Correa's ideals amid widespread discontent with the political management of past years.

Some 9.3 million voters are eligible to cast their ballots on Sunday.

It will mark the fourth time in a year Ecuadorans go to the polls, after two rounds of voting in the presidential election, and a referendum that cleared the way for the creation of the Constituent Assembly.

Once installed, the new body will have six months to write a draft constitution that will be put to a referendum.

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