On 28 September the people of Ecuador will decide upon a new Constitution with extensive political reforms. In August and September, an intensive campaign is expected.
In a special meeting on July 25, the Constitutional Assembly submitted the final text of its new Constitution to the Supreme Electoral Court. The traditional political parties in the opposition do not support this Constitution, but since President Rafael Correa and his new political movement Allianza País has a majority in the Constitutional Assembly, they were able to finalize the project without support of the opposition.
Opposition against the constitution comes from various sectors in society and politics and is therefore very heterogeneous. Firstly the Catholic Church rejects it, because for them the clausal in the Constitution on abortion is not restrictive enough. Secondly some new political parties did not support the Constitution because of what they perceive as a lack of democracy in the constitutional process. But despite their reservations both of these groups will not actively campaign against the constitution.
On the contrary, the old traditional political parties, such as Sociedad Patriótica and Partido Social Cristiano, already openly rejected the Constitution, but without constructive debate about the content. Finally, the regional opposition in the province Guayas and the municipality Guayaquil, reject the new constitution because it does not provide in their request for more autonomy.
Three scenarios are possible depending on the result of the referendum. Firstly, if a majority of more than 51% votes in favor of the Constitution, a small “congresillo” of ex-assembly members will be set up. This “Congresillo” will be responsible for the development of the most urgent laws and will replace the old Congress (which was sent home earlier) until the next national elections planned in March 2009.
If however a majority will vote against the constitution, the 1998 Constitution will be ratified automatically and the old Congress, consisting of a majority of opposition parties, will return. This would render all actions of the Constituent Assembly, including the drafting of new laws, in months prior, illegal in retrospect. Moreover, the old constitution does not provide the opportunity to organize elections earlier than planned. Consequently Rafael Correa has to fulfill his term facing a Congress dominated by the opposition. This will lead to a stalemate in a political and juridical sense.
Finally it is possible that the constitution is indeed being voted in, but not with a majority more than 51%. If so, there is no consensus on what happens next. The parties in favor of the new Constitution will demand for national elections and the winner of this elections will have to decide to ratify the Constitution or not. Some opposition parties however will demand a ratification of the 1998 Constitution in case of a result less than 51%.
Based on a recent opinion poll (12 July) this scenario could very likely happen, which would imply fierce political polarization and juridical dispute. On the contrary, the government movement itself expects a victory of 75%. Since the opposition is very fragmented and a collective “No” campaign is not expected, this scenario is a possibility as well.
During the campaign period NIMD’s partner Ágora Democrática, will continue to facilitate and create political dialogue between the government and opposition parties in order to decrease polarization. Knowledge sharing seminars to all political parties will be organized on important issues of the new constitution, such as political reforms, media landscape and gender.