Political Risk Latin America Blog @PolRiskLatam

Ecuador’s politics: Not over yet

Posted in News and Articles, Political Risk by politicalrisklatam on June 1, 2011

by S.K. for The Economist – Americas View, June 1st, 2011.

After being trapped for hours in a hospital during a police mutiny last September, Rafael Correa, Ecuador’s president, bet much of his political capital on an attempt to shore up his power through a constitutional referendum. On May 7th, he put to voters a package of ten amendments that would allow him to increase his control over the courts and media. The early results suggested a split decision, with most of the proposals narrowly passing but two key measures falling short. However, towards the end of the drawn-out vote-counting process, the Yes camp pulled ahead on both questions. Its lead held up: the National Electoral Council (CNE) announced on May 19th that all nine amendments put to a national vote had been approved, albeit mostly by very slim margins. (The final question, on whether to ban killing animals for public entertainment, was settled at the local level).

The opposition has cried fraud, and filed hundreds of legal appeals. Its leaders have honed in on low-income neighbourhoods in Guayaquil, the country’s biggest city, as the likely site of the government’s mischief. Many polling stations there reported more than the maximum of 400 voters. Electoral officials have argued the numbers were caused by high turnout from the police and army. But Martha Roldós, an opposition leader, notes that the rolls from those locations include high numbers of women. Even one of the CNE’s directors, Marcia Caicedo, has accused her colleagues of favouring the government and dragging its feet on the opposition’s complaints. Mr Correa’s rivals say they hope their appeals will at least delay the publication of the official results of the referendum and the implementation of its most controversial measures.

The president, by contrast, has focused on locking in his tenuous gains, touting the outcome as a “ten to zero” landslide. The referendum’s changes to the judiciary will automatically take effect as soon as the CNE releases its final results. But legislative approval is required for its provisions on regulating the media, outlawing “unjustified” wealth, closing for-profit gambling operations and criminalising employers’ failure to register their workers with the social-security service. (continue reading… )


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