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.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Ecuador poll backs the Chavez route to reform

Rory Carroll, Latin America correspondent
Tuesday October 2, 2007
The Guardian

Voters in Ecuador appear to have backed an attempt to redesign the country along socialist lines, giving fresh impetus to the surge of Latin America's "pink tide".

Exit polls showed President Rafael Correa's coalition heading for a majority in an assembly which is to write a new constitution. If confirmed, it would bolster his leftwing agenda and give Washington another Latin American headache.

Several projections predicted that Mr Correa's National Alliance slate would win more than 70 of the 130 seats, putting his supporters in the driving seat of a plan to transform one of the region's most politically volatile countries.

The charismatic economist turned president is a scathing critic of the Bush administration and an admirer of Venezuela's outspoken socialist leader, Hugo Chavez. He has promised not to renew the lease on a small US military base.

Summoning a constitutional assembly to enshrine radical change is a formula Mr Chavez pioneered in Venezuela and is encouraging allies to emulate across South America.

The results may not be finalised for three weeks but Quito-based pollsters agreed with a local citizens' group, Participacion Ciudadana, which estimated Mr Correa's candidates had won most of the assembly seats. The count was conducted at 6,129 of the country's 37,656 voting centres. Mr Correa did not wait for official confirmation to declare victory. "We accept this triumph with great humility and total responsibility. We know we cannot fail," he said, citing projections of the vote count without elaborating.

Current and former cabinet ministers lined up to echo his confidence, although opposition candidates said they would await completed results.

Mr Correa was elected in January after electrifying impoverished voters with promises of sweeping away power structures dominated by traditional elites. He has raised the hopes of millions of Ecuadoreans, especially those with darker skin, that decades of neglect can be reversed.

He has also raised fears among the fragmented opposition that he will erode democracy, foster authoritarianism and try to perpetuate his power.

Following the Chavez model, which is to turn popularity into concrete political gains, Mr Correa is gambling that the constitutional assembly will enable him to dissolve congress, which is widely considered a den of cronyism, and to "reinvent" the state. A new constitution would require approval by two-thirds of voters in a referendum.

The president is expected to push for greater control over the central bank and to toughen Ecuador's bargaining stance with western creditors and investors, especially over its debt. He opposes a trade deal with the US, saying the competition would crush his country's farmers.

Another Chavez protege, Bolivia's President Evo Morales, has had trouble controlling his own country's constitutional assembly, a warning to Mr Correa that he still has tough battles ahead.

The president has been vague about exactly what sort of state he intends to create. In the past week he has called Mr Chavez a friend but distanced himself from the Venezuelan model of "21st century socialism".

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