“It’s clean, it’s simple, and it’s safe,” is how Romero Salazar describes the slate of questions that President Lenin Moreno has chosen to include on the national referendum to be held in January or February.
“The questions also show Moreno as a savvy, sophisticated politician,” says Salazar, who advised the campaign of former president Rafael Correa. “He avoids more controversial topics that could complicate the referendum, knowing that his high approval ratings mean that all seven of his questions will almost certainly be decided in his favor. He also includes questions about environmental protection and child abuse that no one will object to.”
Almost all major political parties and movements, from both the right and the left, say they will vote yes on the questions, although most say they would have liked to see questions that promote their agendas. Conservative Guillermo Lasso, who Moreno narrowing defeated in May, endorsed the questions, saying they include ones that would have asked on his own referendum if he had won. Centrist Guayaquil Mayor Jaime Nebot has also signed on, as has Jaime Vargas, president of the leftist indigenous coalition, Conaie.
Lasso says he would have liked to see more questions to reduce taxes and regulation of businesses while Vargas would prefer a vote on granting amnesty to indigenous protesters arrested in 2015.
The only open opposition comes from Moreno’s own Alianza Pais (AP) party, where some members object to the question that would block Correa’s return to the presidency, and to a lesser degree, the question that will do away with a law that imposed high capital gains taxes on real estate sales.
“In general, the Correistas in AP are keeping their heads down, understanding the cost they would pay for being on the losing side,” says Salazar.
Like almost all observers, Salazar agrees that the biggest issue on the ballot is the reversal of the 2015 amendment passed by the National Assembly allowing the indefinite reelection of public officials, including the president. “The vote will effectively neuter Correa, taking away most of his power and reducing his legitimacy,” he says. “After that, it’s an entirely different ball game in Ecuador politics.”
The seven questions
The following are the seven questions Moreno proposes for the referendum ballot. They are currently undergoing a review by the constitutional court, which could change the wording of some of them.
- Do you agree that the Constitution be amended to punish anyone convicted of acts of corruption by terminating their ability to participate in the political life of the country and with the loss of their property?
- To guarantee alternation in power, do you agree to amend the Constitution so that elected officials can be re-elected once to a four-year term (total of eight years in two terms) only…., leaving indefinite reelection ineffective?
- Do you agree to amend the Constitution to restructure the Participation Council, as well as to terminate the term of its current members, and that the Council that temporarily assumes has the power to evaluate the performance of the authorities …, being able to terminate their periods early?
- Do you agree with the repealing of the Organic Law to Prevent Speculation on Land Value and Taxation, known as the “Capital Gains (Plusvalia) Act”?
- Do you agree to amend the Constitution of the Republic of Ecuador so that sexual offenses against children and adolescents never prescribe?
- Do you gree to increase the intangible area to at least 50,000 hectares and reduce the area of oil exploitation authorized by the National Assembly in the Yasuní National Park from 1,030 hectares to 300 hectares?
- Do you agree to amend the Constitution to prohibit, without exception and during all stages, metallic mining in protected areas, intangible zones and urban centers?