Ecuador will have Constitutional Assembly Referendum

Ecuadorean congress has passed the motion made by President Rafael Correa to hold a referendum to consider constitutional reform.  If the referendum is passed, it will create a national assembly to rewrite the constitution. 

A constitutional assembly is a special legislative body in which citizens join congress people to write a new constitution. Venezuela held such an assembly after Chavez’s 1999 election and an assembly in Bolivia has been deadlocked with political in-fighting since August 6.  The referendum is planned for April 15, and, if passed, elections will be held for representatives to the assembly.  The 130 members of the assembly are then expected to legislate for 180 days with a possible 30-day extension.

Correa, inaugurated in January, says that the reforms could curb the power of traditional parties.  Thousands of demonstrators protested outside the congress while the vote was taking place. The motion passed the 100-seat Congress 57-1. A majority of opposition members walked out, but the motion was passed by an agreement between pro-government congress people and a minority opposition party.  Although it is unclear what administrative body would organize the referendum, opinion polls suggest about 70% would vote in favour of the national assembly.

According to Reuters, Correa has rattled Wall Street and Washington with pledges to restructure debt and end a lease allowing the US military to use an air base, and by creating alliances with White House enemy Hugo Chavez.

Opposition lawmakers fear that granting a Constitutional Assembly broad powers will consolidate Correa’s presidential powers and create instability. "Today the constitution has been broken," said opposition congressman Federico Perez. "I really hope our country doesn’t fall in to communism."

However, many Ecuadorians see the matter differently.  CONAIE president (Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador) Luis Macas said the Constituent Assembly will be the will of the people wishing to transform the country.