What’s Behind Sunday’s Referendum in Ecuador?

By Ramiro Carrillo (dpa)

Ecuadorians go to the polls on Sunday to vote on a seven question referendum.

HAVANA TIMES – The level of support obtained by the president of Ecuador, Lenin Moreno, in the referendum this Sunday will determine his political capital to implement a different course from the “citizen’s revolution” of his predecessor and current political enemy, Rafael Correa.

In total, the plebiscite is composed of seven questions, although the most controversial is the one that asks citizens whether they wish to limit the re-election of authorities to a single term, which would prevent Correa (2007-2017) from competing again for the presidency.

Here are some key points in the consultation promoted by Moreno, a former ally of Correa in the Alianza País movement that led the two to the presidency:

What is the purpose of the consultation?

Beyond the 13 million eligible voters being asked to vote “yes” or “no” to the seven questions of the referendum, which include issues such as the environment, corruption and the statute of limitations on crimes against children, the main objective of this is to mark a new path for the political future of Ecuador.

The main message that Moreno seeks to launch in support of the Yes vote is that all the authorities elected by popular vote can only be re-elected once, guaranteeing alternation in power.

Moreno has stated that consulting the population is the best thing for democracy and that it should be done as many times as necessary, rejecting the criticisms of unconstitutionality regarding the procedure of this consultation.

What are the seven questions of the consultation?

The government will consult citizens about the elimination of indefinite re-election, the disqualification from holding office of corrupt politicians, the proposed no statute of limitations on sexual crimes against minors, the prohibition of metallic mining, the repeal of the Goodwill Law, the extension of protected regions and the conformation by popular election of the body that designates the control authorities.

Are the answers binding?

If the “yes” vote wins, the articles of the Constitution must be modified regarding the reelection of authorities, the election of the members of the Citizen Participation Council, the extraction of metallic minerals in urban areas, the sanctions for corruption and sexual crimes against children.

In addition, the so-called Goodwill Law would be repealed, which created a tax on real estate transactions and a new law would be issued for the new land use regulations of the Yasuní National Park.

The National Assembly already announced the formation of a special commission to adapt the new provisions to the Constitution and legal bodies.

Why is the referendum so controversial?

The consultation generated a great controversy because it proposes changes in some points that were key during the Government of Rafael Correa, such as the indefinite re-election, approved by amendment by the National Assembly on December 3, 2015.

In seeking to overturn these policies, Moreno made transparent his goal of distancing himself from his predecessor and making a government with his own style.

Correa, for his part, questioned the direct sending of the consultation to the National Electoral Commission (CNE) without waiting for a pronouncement from the Constitutional Court, for what he considers illegal. In addition, he believes that prohibiting the indefinite re-election of presidents is a setback of rights.

The former president denounced the situation before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (CIDH), a body that previously had sharply questioned his policies regarding freedom of expression. 

The controversy affected the unity of the now divided Alianza País Movement (AP), thanks to which both Correa and Moreno reached the presidency. This rupture was also evident in the National Assembly. The Correa wing now seeks a new name for its movement.