(IPS) – The landslide victory for Ecuador’s governing Movimiento Alianza País in the election for a constituent assembly to rewrite the Ecuadorean constitution has cleared the way for the foundations to be laid for a "solidarity economy."
Alberto Acosta, a 58-year-old economist with strong ties to the country’s environmental and indigenous movements, was the candidate who garnered the greatest number of votes on Sunday, which means he is likely to preside over the constituent assembly when it begins its work in November.
In an interview with IPS, he stressed the need for the new constitution to establish the framework of an economy based on solidarity, and argued that the "neoliberal" free-market model followed by previous governments must be dismantled.
Acosta, a close economic adviser to Correa, told IPS that "We believe the economy should be based on human beings," and that capital, investment, the profit motive and the workings of the state should be subordinate to human beings.
He also confirmed that the government will propose that the constituent assembly declare a congressional recess while the assembly is in session, and that it create a legislative commission instead to deal with the most pressing issues during that time.
Although the final results are not yet in, exit polls by the Santiago Pérez y Asociados polling firm indicate that Correa’s supporters won between 76 and 79 of the 130 seats in the assembly, followed by the Patriotic Society Party (PSP) of former president Lucio Gutiérrez (2002-2005), which garnered 13 seats.
And a quick count carried out by Participación Ciudadana (Citizen Participation), a local non-governmental organisation, at thousands of polling stations indicated that the Alianza País took 71 seats, compared to 19 for the PSP.
That means the governing party and allied leftist and centre-left forces will have the absolute majority they need to push through their projected reforms, since the redrafted constitutional articles will be approved by 50 percent-plus one of the votes in the assembly.
Correa’s proposals could be supported by as many as 85 of the delegates in the assembly if they are backed by the representatives of small parties like the Marxist Popular Democratic Movement, the Pachakutik indigenous movement, and the social democrats in the Democratic Left of former president Rodrigo Borja (1988-1992) and the Ethical and Democratic Network of former vice president León Roldós.
The new constitution, which will require the votes of two-thirds of all voters in a referendum, should guarantee the right to work, Acosta maintained.
He said this means that those seeking to make a living in the informal sector, like street vendors, would no longer be harassed, "as they often are because they supposedly make the city ugly."
"Work does not make any city ugly," Acosta said emphatically.
"Human beings are also the most important aspect in terms of production, because work is the main factor in production, and the new constitution must eliminate all factors that tend to make jobs precarious, such as outsourcing and subcontracting, which are systems of overexploitation," he said.
Acosta added that respect for the environment is a crucial aspect of the solidarity economy.
"The environment is one of the basic focuses of our proposed structural changes," he said. "Human beings are at the centre, but coexisting with nature without destroying it. That is why we are pushing forward with the plan to refrain from exploiting the oil reserves in the Yasuní National Park."
Acosta is spearheading the government’s unique initiative to agree not to exploit the Ishipingo-Tambococha-Tiputini oil deposits and to protect the national park, one of the most biodiverse areas in the world, in exchange for international compensation.
The former minister of energy and mines also wants Ecuador to be declared a country "free of open pit mining."
On the financial front, he is pushing for a constitutional limit on the payment of the public debt, and a review of debts contracted by governments in the past to determine whether they were illegitimate.
Reforms will also be proposed for the banking sector, so that "it is at the service of the productive apparatus rather than the other way around, as is currently the case," said Acosta.
He asserted that the governing party’s victory on Sunday was not only against bankers, monopolies and the "oligarchic" power of the traditional parties, but also against several big media outlets that have been openly waging a campaign against the government.
"Some newspapers even completely ignored the huge mass rallies held to close the election campaigns of our movement, and there has also been a frontal attack on us by some TV stations," he said.
Due to the complexity of the constituent assembly elections, because of the large number of candidates and party tickets, it will take the electoral authorities some time to announce the official results.
However, Sunday’s vote was clearly a new triumph for the government that took office in January.
When he went to vote on Sunday, Correa told IPS that the constituent assembly and the new constitution would bring "profound changes to the fatherland for the good of all."
After the preliminary results came out, the president said "this Sept. 30 should be remembered as a day of democratic celebration" when the Ecuadorean people "won the mother of all battles."
"We want the constituent assembly to adopt the most advanced concepts in the history of ideas, to enshrine social achievements for the most vulnerable groups, and to become an instrument of agreement and consensus among all of the country’s political and social actors," he said, while calling for "a new model of a state that guarantees the right of all of its territories access to the benefits of progress in equal conditions."