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

Range of candidates seek Ecuador assembly seats

(Ecuadorean law prohibits the dissemination of polls in the 20 days prior to the assembly election. This article is for publication outside of Ecuador)

By Alonso Soto

CUENCA, Ecuador, Sept 28 (Reuters) - A revolutionary Roman Catholic priest, a masked self-proclaimed crime fighter and several former beauty queens are unlikely candidates from a long list vying on Sunday for Ecuador's assembly to rewrite the constitution.

Leftist President Rafael Correa wants the 130-member assembly to dissolve Congress and slash the powers of traditional political parties, which many Ecuadoreans blame for instability that has ousted three presidents in a decade.

But voters are confused over the process and by a myriad of offers from evangelists to Marxists pushing everything from price cuts to introducing the death penalty to nationalizing the oil industry.

"I felt this was a call from God," said priest Fernando Vega, who campaigns for Correa's party in mountain hamlets near Cuenca. "We are living a revolutionary process ... I'm gathering votes in bordellos and prisons."

Vega joins 3,224 candidates competing for the assembly, where Correa is expected to win close to the 66 seats his party needs to pass constitutional changes. The former economy minister may form alliances to secure a strong majority.

Recent polls showed Correa remains popular, but that 38 percent of voters are still undecided. Observers say voters could take as long as ten minutes each to fill out ballots.

"Anything goes given the crisis discrediting traditional parties," said Felipe Burbano, a political analyst in Quito. "Parties want to fill that vacuum and outsiders are just what they need."

A former college professor, Correa came to office in January promising sweeping changes to purge party influence over courts and state companies.

But his opponents say they worry the U.S.-trained economist is trying to bolster presidential powers as his ally President Hugo Chavez has done in oil-producing Venezuela.


Aside from the priest Vega, Correa's party also features a local film director and a former top model. The long-haired priest walks dirt roads in sandals as he calls on voters to "finally take from the rich."

Contrasting with Vega's revolutionary rhetoric, a masked candidate clad in a bulletproof vest and known as the "Punisher" has become widely popular in the poor province of Manabi with promises to cut crime.

Built like a wrestling pro, the burly the 36-year-old businessman, clad in a bulletproof vest, told Reuters he covers his face "because I'm allergic to corruption."

A weakened opposition led by toppled president Lucio Gutierrez and Correa's former presidential rival Alvaro Noboa has vowed to block the president from using the assembly to consolidate his powers.

They play on fears that Correa will wreck the economy of South America's No. 5 oil producer by spooking foreign investment. Wall Street is worried by his plans to renegotiate foreign debt.

But most Ecuadoreans know little about the candidates or even recognize them, which could benefit Correa, experts say.

Ecuadoreans must fill out two ballots -- one national list measuring nearly a meter long and another for provincial candidates -- and election officials said the final tally using a proportional representation method could take a month.

"We have never seen such a complicated election process in which candidates cannot really connect with voters," said Gandhy Espinosa, a pollster with Informe Confidencial.

"The government will benefit from this because Correa has been able to get in touch with Ecuadoreans."

No comments:

Post a Comment