Ecuador’s Constitutional Court ruled Thursday night that President Guillermo Lasso’s use of the cross death to close the National Assembly is legal. In a unanimous vote, judges threw out six lawsuits claiming the president’s action was unconstitutional.
In its statement, the court said Lasso properly invoked the cross death under constitutional rules. “Based on Article 148, the court does not have jurisdiction to rule on the verification and motivation of the claim of serious political crisis and internal commotion invoked by the president. Therefore, he is justified in dissolving the National Assembly and calling new elections.”
The six lawsuits were brought by members of the Assembly and various social organizations, claiming current conditions do not justify the closure of the Assembly and new elections.
Lasso invoked the cross death early Wednesday morning, dismissing the Assembly and ordering the National Elections Commission (CNE) to organize new elections for the Assembly and the presidency.
The ruling gives the green light for Lasso to rule by decree until a new Assembly and president are elected and installed. Under terms of the cross death, the Constitutional Court is required to review all decrees and orders to determine that they comply with the constitution.
According to a former president of the Constitutional Court, Hernán Salgado, the judges’ ruling was expected. “It was the only ruling they could make based on the constitutional language,” he said. “Only one of the three justifications for the cross death is reviewable by the court and it was not the basis for the president’s decision. The challenges the court dismissed were based purely on political motivations and did not consider the constitutional justification.”
Following the court’s decision, the Elections Council announced it would begin planning for new elections immediately. CNE President Diana Atamaint said work will begin Friday organizing the elections with final plans to be announced next week.
Since this is the first time the cross death has been invoked, Atamaint said the council faces a short time-line. “The process must be compressed from the schedule used in other elections and this requires additional work on the part of the staff.”
She said CNE has set a tentative schedule of requiring political organizations to name their Assembly and presidential candidates by the end of May. “We are looking at August 20 for the first round of elections and October 15 for run-off elections but these are preliminary dates.”
She added that the goal is to have the newly elected officers installed by the end of the year.