Although Correa’s opposition is fragmented, it may come to together to fight amendment that would allow indefinite reelection

Sep 4, 2015 | 3 comments

They range from a conservative coalition of business and agricultural interests to leftist indigenous groups and labor unions who wave the communist flag. They would never come together to support a common candidate in a general election but they do agree on one thing: they oppose a constitutional amendment that would allow President Rafael Correa to run for reelection.

A July anti-government protest march in Cuenca.

A July anti-government protest march in Cuenca.

The amendment is currently in the country’s National Assembly where, by law, it can be enacted with a two-thirds majority vote, a foregone conclusion since Correa’s Alianza Pais party holds an overwhelming majority of seats.

The opposition is demanding that the proposal be put to a public vote where its chances of passage are far less certain.

National polls show that the public wants a chance to vote on the amendment, with one showing 80% support for a vote, while another shows 55%.

The opposition, which is led on the right by former presidential candidate Guillermo Lasso and Guayaquil Mayor Jaime Nebot, and on the left by half dozen indigenous groups and labor uinions, says it will take to the streets if Correa and the Assembly do not agree to a public referendum.

“For a year I have been fighting to put the amendment to a public referendum,” said Lasso. ”Now that the indians have taken up the fight I believe we have an excellent chance to be successful and achieve true democracy,” he said.

There is pressure on both the government and the opposition due to a December deadline by which time the amendment must be en force to allow candidates to seek additional terms. The next general election is February 2017.

Political analyst Felipe Burbano de Lara says the challenge is to bring groups from opposite ends of the political spectrum together as an effective force. “These people don’t like each other very much so there is the question if they can agree to work for a common cause,” he said. “On the other hand, both sides know that separately they will probably have limited impact.”

Although both sides have mounted large anti-government demonstrations in recent months, the protests lacked momentum and have, at least for the moment, faded from public view.

Both indigenous leaders, who are still maintaining what they call a national strike, and the right-wing and centrist interests, say that they are prepared to mount public protests against the amendment. The question, according to de Lara, is whether they will do it together or apart. “That will decide if it will be effective or not,” he says.

 

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