Conflicts & War

Ecuador in uncharted waters after president’s desperate gambit

Quito, May 18 (EFE).- A day after President Guillermo Lasso shocked Ecuadorians by dissolving the legislature, enacting rule-by-decree, and calling for elections half-way through his term, the country sought to make sense of the new political landscape.

The right-wing billionaire’s decision to invoke a legal mechanism known as “muerte cruzada” (mutual death) put an end to impeachment proceedings in the opposition-controlled National Assembly and raised the prospect of three general elections in the space of four years.

Lasso and the present leftist majority in congress were elected in 2021 to four-year terms.

The winners in this year’s special elections, which are tentatively set for late August, will serve the balance of the current mandate and voters will be called to the polls again in 2025.

Muerte cruzada was included in the 2008 constitution promoted by leftist President Rafael Correa, but had never been used before this week.

With new elections around the corner, Ecuador’s political parties are absorbed in planning for the campaign and despite harsh criticism of Lasso’s maneuver, the streets remained relatively quiet Thursday.

One of the parties backing the impeachment of the president for alleged corruption, the conservative Social Christians, have asked the Constitutional Court to strike down Lasso’s invocation of muerte cruzada, but the National Electoral Council (CNE) is mobilizing for a snap election.

Under muerte cruzada, the CNE has until May 24 to convene elections, but council chair Diana Atamaint offered a provisional timetable on Thursday.

The tentative plan calls for a vote on Aug. 20 with a second round – if necessary – on Oct. 15. On that schedule, the winner of the presidential contest would take office in November.

Atamaint suggested that the legal campaign period may be severely truncated, from the usual 45 days to just 15.

By the time November rolls around, there will be less than two years left in the presidential term, and it remains unclear how many people will be interested.

Lasso has yet to say whether he will be a candidate and the second-place finisher in 2021, Andres Arauz, told EFE Thursday that running for president again is not his “personal priority.”

Arauz, who was the standard-bearer of Correa’s Citizens Revolution (RC) party, said that the moment demands the formation of a “historic bloc” comprising the RC, Pachakutik – the political wing of the powerful Conaie indigenous movement – and other forces on the left.

During an interview in Washington, Arauz said that reaching agreement on an electoral program and policy agenda is more important than choosing a candidate.

Two years ago, Pachakutik put forward its own presidential candidate, declining to work with RC.

Lasso, who issued an executive order Wednesday imposing a tax overhaul that had been rejected by the National Assembly, intends to use his special muerte cruzada powers to push through other measures, his interior minister said Thursday. EFE fgg/dr

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