It’s time to continue our examination of the upcoming elections in Ecuador, which we commenced last month. Before getting stuck into things, I should note that you can access a list of the ElectionWatch posts by clicking on the election countdown in the sidebar. Also, if keeping an eye on Ecuador isn’t enough for you, Ben Raue at the recently-relocated Tally Room has been publishing a series of 2009 election previews.
Last month, I noted that Ecuador is a democratic Presidential republic and that the 2009 elections would be the first under a newly-approved Constitution. Let’s take a closer look at the recent political background.
(NB: I am mostly going to use Wikipedia sources when citing the details of this section. However, Adam Carr also has records of the Ecuadorian elections on his site.)
The President is the head of state and government, appointing the Cabinet. The last Presidential elections took place in 2006. The electoral process follows a two-stage model, in which a run-off ballot is held between the two candidates who received the most votes in the first round (assuming that no candidate gains more than 50% of the vote in the first round). In the 2006 election, the run-off was between Rafael Correa of the Alianza PAIS (Proud and Sovereign Fatherland Alliance) and Álvaro Noboa of PRIAN (the Institutional Renewal Party of National Action).
Correa is an economist who has studied in Belgium and the United States, and who had served for four months as the Minister of Economy and Finance in the previous administration before resigning over a disagreement with the President. He formed the Alianza PAIS party in the lead-up to the 2006 elections, and ran on a socialist platform that emphasised reforming the operations of the oil industry to address environmental concerns and direct a greater share of the nation’s oil revenues to the poor, removing the nation from military and trade agreements with the United States, and restructuring Ecuador’s foreign debt.
In contrast, Noboa is a businessman with strong involvement in the banana industry. The son of a billionaire businessman, Noboa nonetheless made his own fortune and took control of his family’s holding company. Noboa first ran for the presidency in 1998 as the candidate for the centre-right PRE (Ecuadorian Roldosist Party) and did so again in 2002, as the candidate for his newly-established PRIAN party. Noboa’s conservative platform emphasised tax breaks and a free trade agreement with the United States as catalysts for economic growth.
Of the valid votes (like Australia, Ecuador has compulsory voting and therefore can see a high number of null or blank votes), Noboa received the most votes (26.83%) in the first round (15th October 2006) with Correa second (22.84%). In the run-off (26th November 2006), Correa took the Presidency with 56.67% of the vote.
At the time of the 2006 election, Ecuador had a 100-seat unicameral legislature known as the National Congress. Correa’s Alianza PAIS did not run candidates for the National Congress; instead, Correa had campaigned on a promise to establish a process for formulating a new constitution that would reform a congressional structure that he regarded as corrupt and obstructive. Upon being sworn in as President on 15th January 2007, Correa began working on this process.
Correa orchestrated a referendum on the establishment of a Constituent Assembly. Although the Congress approved the referendum, it appears that Correa subsequently modified the powers that would be awarded to the Constituent Assembly so that Congress itself could be dismissed. The referendum was approved, winning the support of 81.72% of voters; the Constituent Assembly election was then held on 30th September 2007, with Correa’s Alianz PAIS winning 80 of the 130 seats in the body.
The popular victories in the 2007 referendum and Constituent Assembly election allowed Correa and his party to push ahead with their reforms. The Constituent Assembly voted to dissolve the National Congress on the Assembly’s first sitting day. The Assembly then set about drafting the new constitution, which was supported by 63.93% of voters in a referendum held on 28th September 2008. We covered some of the content of the new constitution in the previous ElectionWatch; in terms of the Presidency, the important change is that it allows the President to serve two four-year terms.
So, this brings us to the upcoming elections: Correa will seek election to what would be his first term as President under the new constitution. A new National Congress will also be elected.
I will do a separate news round-up in the next day or two.