More than 13 million voters head to the polls today in a referendum that could reset the course of Ecuador’s recent history. The election was called by President Lenin Moreno who is looking for a mandate to emerge from the shadow of his predecessor, Rafael Correa.
The referendum asks the public to vote yes or no on seven questions, including one that will effectively end Correa’s presidential aspirations. If approved, question two will restore the rule of the 2008 constitution allowing presidents and some other elected officials to serve only two terms in office, which Correa completed in May.
Other questions would reorganize a commission that makes political and judicial appointments, eliminate a Correa-era capital gains tax on real estate sales, and prohibit those convicted of corruption from holding public office.
At the heart of today’s vote is Moreno’s effort to disengage from the governing strategy and some of the polices Correa introduced during his 10 years in office, the longest presidential tenure in Ecuador history. Moreno, who was Correa’s vice president for six years and is a member of the political movement that Correa helped found, began to disagree with his predecessor almost as soon as he took office in May.
The conflict between the two men has led to the break-up of the Alianza Pais party and a bitter fight leading up to today’s election. Correa, who had retired to Belgium, his wife’s home country, has returned to Ecuador to campaign against the referendum.
Public referendums have played a significant role in Ecuador since 1978, when the military dictatorship called one to reestablish democratic rule. Correa called four referendums and would have called a fifth if political polls had not shown he would lose his bid to end term limits, leaving the door open for his return to office.
With a super majority in the National Assembly, Correa was able to enact the constitutional amendment ending term limits without asking the public. Moreno maintains that he is simply giving the public the chance that they were earlier denied.
Polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 7 p.m. According to the the National Elections Commission (CNE), voting results will begin to be announced by about 6:30 p.m. The final count should be available by midnight.