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's Delegates Lead Ecuador Vote, Exit Poll Shows

By Stephan Kueffner

Sept. 30 (Bloomberg) -- Ecuadorean candidates backed by President Rafael Correa likely won a majority of the seats for a national assembly to rewrite the constitution and expand state control of the Andean nation's economy, an exit poll shows.

Delegates backed by Correa won as many as 53 of 91 seats, according to an exit poll by Santiago Perez Investigaciones y Estudios, a pollster close to the administration. Final results for the 130 seats aren't yet available.

The assembly, which will revamp the country's constitution for the third time since 1978, fulfills Correa's campaign pledge last year to craft a new basic law that bolsters political stability and purges traditional ``elites'' from power. Correa has said the new constitution will end central bank independence and lift the bar on re-election of a sitting president.

``The people have given the traditional parties a red card,'' Rolando Panchana, a candidate close to Correa who was likely elected to the national assembly, said in a television interview from Guayaquil with Canal 1.

Speaking to reporters in the presidential palace in Quito after the exit poll was released, Correa said he expects to win 80 of the 130 seats. ``The results are overwhelming,'' he said.

`Long Night'

An economist with a U.S. doctoral degree who calls himself a ``friend'' of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, Correa, 44, has been mostly vague about his goals for the assembly. The convention will signal ``the long night of neo-liberal policies is over,'' Correa told rallies around the country in past months.

The president last week said at a news conference in New York that he would resign if he failed to win a majority of the seats. About 9 million citizens cast ballots for more than 3,200 candidates.

Better-known polling agencies have decided not to provide early estimates of the result, citing the complexity of the process. Participacion Ciudadana, a non-governmental organization, will publish an early vote-count at 8 p.m. local time.

``Certainly, the assembly will generate fundamental changes in the economic structure,'' the central bank said in a document posted on its Web site.

Investment Decline

In the second quarter, investment in infrastructure, housing, vehicles and other fixed assets fell 2.3 percent from the previous quarter. That was the biggest decline since the same quarter in 2003 and the second-largest since 1999, when a fall in oil prices combined with natural disasters to trigger a 6.3 percent plunge in GDP, the Central Bank reported Sept 28.

The bank earlier this month cut its 2007 growth forecast to 3.4 percent from 4.3 percent, as ``the outlook for the oil sector isn't optimistic.'' Crude oil output is likely to decline 5.7 percent this year to about 184.6 million barrels from 194.2 million barrels last year, the bank said.

By contrast, the United Nation's Economic Commission on Latin America and the Caribbean estimates the region's average growth will be 5 percent after a 5.6 percent increase last year.

Domestic demand growth slowed to 0.6 percent on quarter in the second quarter, from 3.1 percent in the first quarter, the bank also reported. In the same period, government demand rose by 1.6 percent after contracting 0.2 percent in the first quarter. Gross domestic product in 2006 was $21.6 billion.

Though he enjoys a majority in the 100-member Congress -- a rare occurrence in Ecuador for a president -- the assembly is likely to disband Congress and call for new elections.

``Congress should take an unpaid vacation,'' Alberto Acosta, the candidate leading the list for Correa's Alianza Pais party, said at a news conference Sept. 28. ``The simultaneous existence of two legislative powers will generate tensions.''


Acosta, a German-educated economist, is one of Correa's top policy advisers and was his first energy minister, overseeing the country's oil industry, which accounts for about half of government revenue.

A draft constitution written by academics at the president's request specifies that the state's ``benefits from sustainable profit'' from oil or minerals ``will never be inferior to those of the company'' exploiting those resources. The present constitution doesn't include any minimum return for the state for natural resources.

Ecuador produced 46.4 million barrels of crude oil in the second quarter from 45.2 million in January through March.

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