Monday, April 16, 2007

Ecuador: Landslide Victory for Constitutional Change

I hope the world is paying attention to Ecuador tonight, because when the editorials start flying around calling President Rafael Correa a leftist dictator (like some usual suspects shamefully already have), they will not mention April 15, 2007.

It appears the "Si"vote for the constitutional Constituent Assembly was even higher than I was going to predict yesterday - it's already at 83% (with 19% counted). Ecuador has voted for change and Mr. Correa has given them that possibility. Now the hard work will begin. But no one can ever say this process of change did not come democratically. Here's what the majors are saying:

QUITO (Reuters) - President Rafael Correa said he wanted a radical overhaul of Ecuadorean politics after he overwhelmingly won a referendum that should enable him to wrest power from a Congress reviled as corrupt.

With 19 percent of ballots counted, 83 percent of voters backed Correa's call for an assembly to rewrite the constitution and strip powers from a Congress they see as tainted for appointing cronies to state firms and the courts.
The clear referendum win is expected to bolster Correa's mandate and allow him to push ahead with initiatives such as ending the lease on a major U.S. military base, renegotiating oil deals and restructuring the national debt.

"Correa and the new constituent legislators (have) a very strong mandate for change and to go far and deep in terms of the scope for the reforms," Alberto Ramos, a senior economist at Goldman Sachs, wrote in a research note from New York.

And from the <IHT/NY Times:
"We need an abrupt change that repositions the presidency in relation to Congress, while also strengthening the state's capacity for regulation," said Juan Paz y MiƱo, a historian who supports Correa. "This doesn't mean abolishing private enterprise, but rather making the private sector more socially responsible."

And the BBC:
Mr Correa said "fear had been left behind".

"The future was at stake, the country was at stake and Ecuadoreans have said yes to that future."

Mr Correa responded to the referendum with an announcement that Ecuador had repaid its final debt to the International Monetary Fund.
But many of his critics have accused him of trying to increase his power and follow President Chavez, who has brought in controversial reforms in Venezuela.

Former Ecuador president Oswaldo Hurtado said of the referendum: "It's not a project for a better democracy. It's a project to accumulate power. All dictators always have had constitutions made to fit them."

The assembly at the centre of the vote would be elected within three months and have six months to draft the constitution. The document would then be put to a second referendum. Mr Correa has said he wants to depoliticise the courts and decentralise the state.



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