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.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Correa wins majority in Ecuador

By Carlos Andrade and Alexandra Valencia

QUITO (Reuters) - Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa's party won an overwhelming majority of seats in Sunday's election for a national assembly to rewrite the constitution, four government ministers told Reuters.

Official results have yet to be released but a 66-seat majority would allow left-winger Correa to control the assembly, which he says should dissolve the Congress and curb traditional political elites many blame for instability.

"That is the information we are getting. We could have more than 70 assembly members," said Minister of Coastal Affairs Ricardo Patino, a close aide to Correa.

Three other ministers also confirmed those figures.

Correa's party was ahead with 14 to 15 delegates out of 24 national seats, a government-aligned exit poll said. Results for the 100 delegates chosen provincially and six by overseas immigrants were not immediately released by pollster SP Investigaciones.

Attacking the old guard as a mafia, Correa wants the assembly to introduce sweeping reforms but foes fear he seeks to amass power and follow ally Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez by turning his Andean country into a socialist state.

A popular former economy minister who swept into office in January, Correa seeks to purge the influence of traditional political parties, which are widely blamed for the chronic instability that has ousted three presidents in a decade.

A strong mandate in the assembly would allow Correa to shore up his legislative control, tighten state control of the central bank and push economic and debt proposals that have already worried Wall Street investors.

Ecuadoreans chose from more than 3,000 candidates for the assembly, which will debate a draft of constitutional reforms put together by academics. A final version must be approved in a popular referendum after at least six months.

A fragmented opposition has vowed to stop Correa from using the assembly to consolidate presidential powers and tighten his grip on key state institutions like Chavez did soon after he was elected in 1998.

"Correa is like a demagogue, his policies are taking us toward communism and that is exactly what we don't need," said oil industry student Marcelo Espin, who voted for centrist assembly candidates in Quito.


Even without his party winning an outright majority, Correa still could form alliances with smaller, sympathetic left-wing parties to allow him to control the assembly.

But his key rivals include the brother of former President Lucio Gutierrez, who is popular among the poor despite being ousted during protests in 2005, and Alvaro Noboa, banana magnate and one of the country's richest men, who Correa defeated in last year's election.

Correa dismisses claims he wants to consolidate power. But some ministers and candidates have given mixed signals on reforms they want. The president says he wants to develop a 21st century socialism -- as does Chavez -- but officials say they have no plans for a nationalization program.

A U.S.-educated former college professor, Correa stepped into the political spotlight more than a year ago when he captured attention with a vow to challenge old elites.

The vast array of assembly candidates, including a masked man calling himself the punisher, a priest and beauty queens, and a complex seat assignment confused voters and official results could take days to tally.
Correa's drive for an assembly was marred by clashes with Congress as opposition lawmakers sought to preserve their influence. A court fired 57 lawmakers for blocking the assembly proposal and Congress was briefly suspended after they fought with police.

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