President Lenin Moreno issued executive decrees on Wednesday ordering the National Electoral Council (CNE) to begin immediately to prepare for a public referendum.
The orders essentially bypass the Constitutional Court, Ecuador highest court, which has been conducting a constitutional review of the seven questions to be included on the referendum. Moreno had delivered the questions to the court on October 5.
In his November 21 address to the nation, Moreno expressed frustration at the delay in the court review and asked that it complete its work quickly. “We need to get these questions out of the hands of court and into the hands of voters as soon as possible,” he said.
According to Moreno’s legal secretary Johano Pesántez, the law allows the court 20 days to review referendum questions. “The president has waited patiently for the court to complete its review but after 36 days he is forced to order an end to the process and ask the CNE to prepare for an election,” she said. “The president is acting within the law to issue these decrees,” she added.
Pesántez and acting vice president Alejandra Vicuña delivered copies of Moreno’s orders, as well as a copy of the questions to be included on the referendum, to Fausto Holguín, CNE secretary general. One of the decrees orders CNE to convene immediately to begin preparations of an election.
Among the seven referendum questions voters will decide is one that could reverse a constitutional amendment passed in 2015 by the National Assembly eliminating term limits for some elected offices, including the presidency.
Supporters of former president Rafael Correa expressed outrage at Moreno’s orders and said they would mount a legal challenge.