National Assembly President Virgilio Saquicela plans to call a vote Tuesday to decide if the impeachment trial against President Guillermo Lasso continues. Although the call for a trial is widely expected to pass, some say it could also determine if Lasso’s presidency is in serious jeopardy.
“I’m sure the opposition has the votes to continue the impeachment process but the question is, do they have the numbers to kick the president out of office?” asks constitutional attorney Mauricio Alarcón. “Events over the last week or two have worked in Lasso’s favor so Tuesday’s vote could tell us if impeachment is still a serious possibility. Even if the trial goes forward, it may be a waste of time.”
The vote comes amidst legal and procedural controversies and the possibility that the Constitutional Court could intervene.
Saquicela says he will not present a report that recommends against impeachment prepared by the Assembly’s Oversight Commission. “The full membership of that board did not accept it so it lacks value and legal effect,” he says. “This issue now is whether we go forward with impeachment and the Assembly must make that decision.”
He did not say if he will allow a vote by the Assembly to officially reject the commission report.
The report, authored by Commission President Fernando Villavicencio, claims there is insufficient evidence to impeach Lasso on charges of embezzlement in the case of the public oil transport company Flopec. It also maintains that the Flopec case is the only issue the Assembly can consider for impeaching Lasso based on instructions from the Constitutional Court.
Quito law professor José Chalco claims that Saquicela’s decision to throw out the report is a violation of the law. “He should have sent the report to all members of the Assembly and he made the personal decision not to,” Chalco says. “Article 91 of the Organic Law of the Legislative Function gives the Assembly president 48 hours to distribute the document to all members so they have access to its findings.”
Legal parliamentarian Roger Celi disagrees and says Saquicela acted responsibly. “Since the report was not approved by the full commission there is no reason for the full legislature to analyze it. The Assembly president can move on and call a vote to install a trial against the president.”
Like Alarcón, former Assembly member Carlos Castro says Lasso’s fate could be determined long before a final vote on impeachment. “With all the recent developments, including the issue with the report not to impeach, we may know very soon if impeachment will succeed or not. Yes, the trial may proceed but the outcome may be known well in advance.”
Castro adds: “Assembly members have read the polls and are aware the public is against impeachment and thinks it is a waste of time. The issue on people’s minds is crime and they are angry the Assembly is ignoring it.”