The ongoing saga as to whether Ecuador’s current President Rafael Correa will run for indefinite re-election took another turn earlier this month as the Ecuadorian National Assembly voted to remove term limits for elected officials.
The removal of term limits was the most contentious out of a series of 15 constitutional amendments backed by Correa’s ruling Alianza Pais party which was passed with help of their super legislative majority in the Ecuadorian National Assembly.
The vote closed a year of public debate about the amendments with a nine hour marathon session and was secured with a hugely favourable majority vote of 100-8, out of a possible 136.
Ecuador’s National Assembly approved 15 constitutional amendments… and the opposition responded with violence. pic.twitter.com/S8weCMoZhk
— teleSUR English (@telesurenglish) diciembre 5, 2015
Correa claimed the amendments, including removal of term limits, were essential in fixing problems with Ecuador’s 2008 constitution which was also brought in by Correa and Alianza Pais.
The amendments address a series of subjects including making communication a public service -another contentious issue in its own right-, changes to regulations of public sector workers like extended rights to unionize and dropping of presidential age restriction to 30 from 35, teleSur reports.
Correa, who has vacillated over the past few years on the prospect of running for a third term at the end of his current presidency, adjusted the amendment’s wording effectively ensuring any elected official currently in office cannot run in the next national election in 2017; himself included.
The move, Correa claims, gives integrity to the debate as he hopes to defuse political opposition to the vote: “whether I run again or not should not be an issue that upsets the peace”.
He continued “that would be selfish on my part and would taint the amendments” according to Cuenca High Life.
In his typically outspoken manner Correa claimed his political legacy would endure in his absence and predicted 2017 a success for his Alianza Pais: “If the election for president and Assembly were held tomorrow, we will win three to one.”
Correa can turn to polling numbers to support his forecasting, with his popularity holding firm despite a slowing economy, particularly the drop in global crude oil and raw material prices that has had an adverse impact on the entire continent.
In recent months, however, Correa and his government have been subjects of numerous protests from a wide range of political opponents, many of which descended into violent clashes with security forces.
Earlier in the year Ecuador experienced a national strike and protests against increases to inheritance taxes and a perceived clamp down on press freedoms. In a similar vein, the news of this month’s vote was met with another round of anti-government protests with opponents denouncing what they claim as Correa consolidating power.
Opposition legislatures have called for the amendments to be put to a national referendum. Ecuador’s capital Quito and other major cities saw street protests, though on a much smaller scale than earlier in the year.
Despite Correa ruling himself out for 2017, he will be free to run in the subsequent presidential elections in 2022 and stand indefinitely thereafter. Many analysts are noting the decision to opt out of contention in 2017 as a shrewd political move. With a worsening economy the Ecuadorian government are expected to make large cuts to public spending and extremely popular social spending programs. By stepping down for one presidency Correa can distance himself from the economic situation and add legitimacy to indefinite re-elections leaving his popularity largely intact.
Ecuador, following the trend of fellow socialist nations Venezuela and Nicaragua has now become the third Latin American nation to implement indefinite re-election. Meanwhile Bolivia is due to hold a referendum in February to decide on extending term limits.