The opposition group Commitment Ecuador formed in September 2014 to oppose the ruling PAIS Alliance party’s attempts to amend the country’s Constitution and allow for the indefinite reelection of the president. The group argues that such a change to Ecuador’s Constitution requires a popular vote.
The question, presented to the CNE, that Commitment Ecuador had planned to pose to the Ecuadorian people reads: “Do you agree that the indefinite reelection of the president and other elected positions should be allowed in Ecuador?”
However, the National Electoral Council denied the request on the grounds that all constitutional issues must first be addressed by the Constitutional Court.
1/2 CNE no entregó formularios pedido de Consulta Popular a colectivo Compromiso Ecu por incumplir art 104 de Const. pic.twitter.com/cgqVDW0iau
— CNE Ecuador (@cnegobec) February 13, 2015
“CNE did not deliver the forms for popular referendum to Commitment Ecuador, since they have not complied with Art. 104 of the Constitution.”
Articles 100 and 104 of the Constitution stipulate that for a referendum regarding “issues of the state” at a national level, a prior ruling by the Constitutional Court on the constitutionality of the question is required, prior to collecting signatures.
CNE President Juan Pablo Pozo has previously referenced Articles 100 and 104 in his denials for a referendum on indefinite reelection, however the attorney Jorge Alvear believes the CNE is ignoring relevant precedents already set by the Constitutional Court.
Alvear points to the referendum led by President Correa in 2011 in which a set of 10 questions were put to a vote, including a potential ban on casinos in the country. The Court ruled in this case that the collection of signatures was necessary to demonstrate the democratic legitimacy of the questions prior to its own ruling on the matter.
Similarly, in 2013, when the group Yasunidos proposed a referendum in connection with the Yasuni ITT Initiative, the Court also ruled that the CNE should provide the required forms to the petitioners to collect signatures beforehand.
Furthermore, Alvear argues that the Court has made clear in prior rulings that all popular referendums must first be verified for democratic legitimacy, through the collection of signatures, before validating the question.
However, the CNE has repeatedly prevented a referendum on term limits from moving forward, including a very similar proposal in October 2014 from the opposition party Patriotic Society (PSP) and the group Democracy Yes.
Julio Clavijo, a member of Commitment Ecuador, told the PanAm Post that he believes the true motive behind the legal maneuvering is to change the Constitution without the consent of the Ecuadorian people.
“Once again, we are seeing how the CNE and Constitutional Court are ‘passing the ball’ between each other, because they know this does not favor the government,” he said.
The day before the CTE announced its decision, President Correa issued a statement guaranteeing the question would be rejected.
“Where is presidential reelection stipulated?” questioned Correa. “Is it in a regulation, a ministerial agreement, a law, or the Constitution? It’s in the Constitution, right? Then, undoubtedly, this is a constitutional matter, and they know it,” he said, calling the referendum “a show.”
Clavijo says Correa’s government is “afraid” to take the question of indefinite reelection to the people, even though it is one of great national interest. “We want to ask, and we are entitled to do so. They cannot deny us a say, to express our opinion at the polls, to endorse or reject the intentions of certain political groups in the country,” he added.
“We cannot allow a fundamental issue for democracy to be discussed behind closed doors by 100 assembly members.” Clavijo says he is concerned that the ruling party “wants to hijack democracy.”
“The president must understand that constitutional issues are not reserved exclusively for him, and that all Ecuadorians have the right to consult and be consulted, especially when he is trying to change the rules of the game for his own benefit,” he concluded.