Ecuador’s National Assembly is beginning discussion of amendments to the constitution that would eliminate presidential term limits and lower the age requirement for seeking the presidency from 35 to 32.
The drive for the change of term limits was the result of April elections in which candidates from President Rafael Correa’s Pais party were defeated in the country’s major cities. Member of the assembly, which is controlled by Pais, became worried that the election was a harbinger of things to come and that an opposition candidate might defeat the Pais candidate in the 2017 presidential election.
Although Correa has not committed to running for a third full term, he supports the amendment and has said that he might run if the opposition appeared poised to win.
Many believe the amendment to lower the age requirement for the presidency is intended to allow assembly president Gabriela Rivadeneira to run for the office if Correa does not. Rivadeneira is 31 and has been viewed by some as the heir apparent.
In addition to those aimed at the presidency, other proposed amendments would clarify current language regarding freedom of speech and allocation of government-owned land. Correa says he wants the constitution to reflect his iniative to make all communcication, through the press, radio, television and the Internet, a public service. “Communication should not be the domain of those who can afford to operate television stations and newspapers for profit,” he said.
After the amendments are approved the assembly, which appears assured, they must be submitted to the Board of Legislative Adminstration and then to the national court for review.
Meanwhile, a public debate is brewing about whether the general public will have the chance to vote on the amendments. Members of the assembly say they have the authority to pass the amendents with a super majority, which the Pais party has, but others say the amendments should be presented to the public in a national referendum. New Quito Mayor Mauricio Rodas has said he might lead a drive to force a national vote if the assembly refuses.
A national poll conducted by Cedatos shows that Ecuadorians, by a 61% to 18%, believe they should have the chance to vote on the amendments.
Photo caption: President Rafael Correa with National Assembly President Gabriela Rivadeneira during a 2013 campaign function.