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Dismissed Ecuador lawmakers fight police as constitutional court ducks dispute

[JURIST] Lawmakers dismissed last week by Ecuador's Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) [official website] fought police as they tried to enter the Congress of Ecuador [official website] on Tuesday, sparking violence that led to the suspension of the legislature's activities for a week. Meanwhile, the Constitutional Tribunal [official website] rejected an appeal by lawmakers to resolve the dispute between the legislature and the TSE, citing lawmakers' failure to conform to petition requirements. The root controversy stems from a plan to hold a referendum on whether to rewrite the constitution [text, in Spanish] of Ecuador [JURIST news archive]. When the TSE approved a version of the referendum pushed by President Rafael Correa [official website; BBC profile], which would allow a constitutional assembly to dismiss elected officials retroactively, 57 members of Congress voted to impeach four of its justices. In response, the TSE fired the 57 legislators [JURIST report], ruling that they had illegally interfered with plans for the referendum.

On Saturday, the Constitutional Tribunal warned Correa to abide by an unfavorable ruling [JURIST report], implying that it would reverse the TSE ruling. Today, police armed in riot gear surrounded the legislature and fought with lawmakers, their supporters and opponents. Correa, who ordered the police to bar the ousted lawmakers from entering, blamed the violence on their supporters [Prensa Latina report]. According to the Constitutional Tribunal, the legislature may either resubmit its request that the Tribunal resolve the issue or it may appeal the original TSE decision. Reuters has more. El Universo has local coverage.

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