Ecuador’s National Assembly [official website, in Spanish] on Thursday passed a constitutional amendment lifting presidential term limits, beginning in 2021. The 16 constitutional amendments were approved in a vote of 100-8 in a legislature where sitting President Rafael Correa’s political party, Alianza Pais [party website, in Spanish], has a two-thirds majority. Though Correa, who has been president since 2007 and will finish his second term in 2017, has said that he will not participate [AP report] in the next election in 2017, he will be eligible to run again in 2021 under the new amendment. The vote has caused protests [AFP report], some violent, against the amendments by demonstrators who believe that the vote represents a power grab by Correa. They wanted the National Assembly to either not vote on the proposal or to put it to a popular vote, as was done in Bolivia earlier this year. While congressman Luis Fernando Torres called the vote constitutional fraud [Guardian report], as it allowed for reform approval without a referendum, Correa tweeted [official Twitter page, in Spanish] on the matter to contend that he will continue to govern with “total democratic legitimacy.”
Correa has been criticized for consolidating power since his election to the presidency in 2007. In 2014 the Constitutional Court of Ecuador ruled that congress could vote [JURIST report] on a proposal to allow unlimited re-election terms. In 2011 Ecuadorian voters approved a series of judicial, social and other governmental reforms backed by Correa and approved [JURIST reports] by the Constitutional Court of Ecuador. The judicial reforms included provisions to dissolve the standing oversight body and replace it with a temporary body to oversee the restructuring of the national court system. The referendum law also allows longer detentions of suspected criminals without formal charges and includes prohibitions on gambling and casinos, limits on bullfighting and cockfighting and bans media companies from owning non-media companies. Legal unrest plagued Ecuador after September 2008 when voters overwhelmingly approved a new constitution that expanded [JURIST report] presidential authority, including the power to dissolve the legislature and pass laws by executive decree. Despite the stated purpose of the reforms, critics of Correa accused his regime of using the new laws to consolidate power and quiet dissent.