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Author`s name Alex Naumov

Ecuador’s President has free hands to lead ambitious Constitutional reform

Delegates linked to Rafael Correa took at least 79 of 130 seats in Sunday’s election for an assembly to rewrite the constitution.

Thanks to an appalling victory in Sunday’s election for an assembly to rewrite the Ecuadorean Constitution, President Rafael Correa paved the way for an ambitious program to expand state control of the nation’s economy. The opposition believes that Correa aims to follow Chavez’s Venezuela way to Socialism, but the Ecuadorean leftist leader says his rule is autonomous.

On Sunday, delegates linked to Correa took at least 79 of 130 seats, according to exit polls reported by Santiago Perez Investigaciones y Estudios, a company close to the government. The non-governmental organization Participacion Ciudadana said its polling showed similar results.

According to observers, Correa’s overwhelming victory means the end of the traditional political system in Ecuador, after more than one decade of crisis. The new time will come as soon as the new political basis will be set by the Constituent Assembly, which according to the law passed to call it is original and above all powers of the country.

The assembly, which will revamp the constitution for the third time since 1978, fulfills Correa's campaign pledge last year to craft a new basic law to bolster political stability and purge traditional "elites'' from power.

Correa has said the new document will end central bank independence and remove the bar on re-election of a sitting president. "The people of Ecuador have won the mother of all battles,'' Correa told reporters at the presidential palace in Quito last night.

The Ecuadorean president has also confirmed that he will call for anticipated elections as soon as the new constitution enters in force. Analysts believe it would not happen until the end of 2008.

An economist with a U.S. doctoral degree who calls himself a "friend'' of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, Correa, 44, has provided few specifics of his goals for the assembly. It will signal at least that "the long night of neo-liberal policies is over,'' Correa told rallies around the country in past months.

Correa pledged to end with the privileges of the political elite, which means to cut attributions of the Congress. According to his proposals to the Assembly, the Congress will no longer be able to impeach the President, as did in the past.

Though Correa enjoys a majority in the 100-member Congress -- a rarity for an Ecuadorean president -- he said yesterday Congress will have to "dissolve itself or go into recess or whatever it wants to call it,'' and be replaced by a committee of assemblymen for the 240 days the convention has to draft a new constitution.

A draft constitution written by academics at the president's request specifies that the state's "benefits from sustainable profit'' from oil or minerals "will never be inferior to those of the company'' exploiting those resources. The present constitution doesn't include any minimum return for the state for natural resources.

Correa’s overwhelming victory also means a big responsibility for him. People has placed enormous expectations in the new Constitution and believes it could resolve all of their problems. Specifically, millions believe the new chart could take them out of poverty, the nation’s major problem that affects almost 70% of the population.

Hernan Etchaleco

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