This post begins a new, ongoing feature here at Not a Hedgehog. The idea for it came up during a discussion I had with Bron from GrodsCorp – we were discussing our enjoyment of the sixth and seventh seasons of the West Wing, and lamenting the absence of adrenaline-inducing campaign action in our lives after a couple of years of non-stop electioneering in the English-speaking world (Australia, USA, Canada, NZ, NT, WA, etc.).
But then it occurred to me – while “teh West” serves as a shining beacon of democracy and liberty, surely not every other country is a tinpot dictatorship? Some parts of the non-English speaking world get to vote in (non-rigged) elections, right? And there’s bound to be an election coming up somewhere. So why don’t we just find an upcoming election and fix our attention on what’s happening in a different part of the world?This brings us to ElectionWatch. It’s a bit like the way a compulsive gambler might bet on the World Tiddlywinks Championships because it’s between football and cricket seasons. While there are still plenty of issues to consider and debate in Australian and American politics (and yes, we will continue to address them), we still need to get our campaign ya-yas; we just need to find a country with an upcoming election and start paying attention. And as an added bonus, we might even learn something about how things stand in other parts of the world.
With the basic idea in mind, the next step was to identify an election to target. Wikipedia came in handy here. There are some elections coming up in 2009 that are likely to be significant for international affairs, including to Australia (e.g., Israel and Iran both have elections coming up). But after studying the list of upcoming elections in 2009, I decided to focus on Ecuador. The point of ElectionWatch is to focus on something that would otherwise get little attention around these parts. I am sure there will be plenty of discussion in the English-language political blogosphere about those other elections.
So, it’s time to turn our attention to Ecuador, down old South America way. The election is set to be held on 19th April 2009 – with the time delay, that’s exactly four months from now. This gives us some time to start becoming familiar with the nation’s politics as well as its pressing economic and social issues. During the next four months, I will make semi-regular posts, usually starting with some relevant background information about Ecuador and then reporting on news and developments that are relevant to the election. I would encourage people to use the comments on the most recent ElectionWatch post to link to anything you read about Ecuador as well. By the time election day rolls around, we should be thoroughly immersed in Ecuadorian politics.
Let’s get things started with some basic orientation. If you aren’t very familiar with Ecuador, start by reading a bit about where it is and what it is like at Wikipedia and the CIA World Factbook. Like most countries in South America, Ecuador was once a Spanish colony but gained its independence in the 19th century; as such, it is a Spanish-speaking country and Catholicism is the dominant religion. Oil dominates Ecuador’s economic activity. Ecuador borders Colombia and a considerable number of refugees from that country reside in Ecuador. Earlier this year, a border crisis arose when Colombian forces entered Ecuadorian territory to destroy a FARC insurgent camp.
Politically, Ecuador is a Presidential republic. The 2009 general election comes about after a new constitution was approved at a referendum in September 2008. This is the 20th Ecuadorian constitution since independence in 1830. The new constitution came at the urging of President Raffael Correa, who will be up for re-election next April – along with pretty much every other national and local elected official. Ecuador’s system features a considerable number of parties and, consequently, coalitions and cooperation across parties play an important role. We will explore the details of Ecuador’s political structure and the parties that will contest the election in future ElectionWatch features.
Ecuador news round-up:
Some of the recent news events affecting Ecuador’s national and political climate:
- Last week, President Raffael Correa announced that Ecuador will default on its international debts. According to his statements, Correa’s decision to fail to honour the nation’s debts is based on moral rather than financial reasons – he claims to have evidence that debt sales under previous governments were for corrupt purposes. The announcement coincides with ramped-up rhetoric from fellow socialist South American leaders such as Hugo Chavez and Evo Morales about the legitimacy of debts incurred by their nations’ earlier governments, a/k/a “military dictatorships”. The Wall Street Journal notes that the prospect of creditors successfully suing the Ecuadorian government are not good. Some commentators have suggested that Correa’s decisive and confrontational approach to the issues of international debt is likely to be followed by more “shocks”.
- Following a visit to Tehran, Correa announced that Ecuador may seek assistance from Iran in strengthening its defences. From Ecuador’s perspective, this arrangement looks to be directed at averting a repeat of Colombia’s transgression earlier in the year. However, it has broader implications for international affairs because the United States has sought to isolate Iran.
- Former President and right-wing “political strongman” Leon Febres Cordero died at the age of 77.
- Ecuador’s Prosecutor General has recused himself from a case against US petroleum company Chevron over allegations of environmental contamination, citing the fact that he had issued previous judicial opinions on related matters.
- The Association of Ecuadorean Banana Growers has challenged the European Union to show leadership against protectionism. They have called on the EU to drop its policy of giving preferential access to bananas from the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries. Ecuador is the world’s largest banana exporter.
- Ecuador’s national football team defeated Iran 1-0 to advance to the final of the International Cup of Oman, a friendly tournament. They will play the hosts in the final (today, I believe). Meanwhile, Ecuadorian club Liga de Quito advanced to the final of the Club World Cup, where they will play Man Utd.
Do you have any comments, questions or news about Ecuador? Contribute to ElectionWatch in the comments.