Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa is reconsidering his decision on running for a new presidential term. This comes a week after his political party, Alianza País, suffered defeats in the country’s municipal elections.
Correa and his party, which has a majority in Congress, seem to have decided in favor of a constitutional reform allowing Correa to run – it is widely expected that a motion will be presented in the very near future to eliminate term limits for the president.Gabriela Rivadeneira, president of Ecuador’s congress, has already declared that Alianza País “is discussing and will propose . . . an amendment to the constitution . . . to allow for re-election.”
Correa was first elected inDecember 2006, and he assumed the presidency on January 15, 2007. His four-year presidential term was supposed to end on January 2011, but his popularity among the citizenry allowed for a new constitution to be passed in 2008 – Ecuadorians approved the new constitution with a64% support. In April 2009,the country had elections againto have a new president and congress under the new constitution. Correa was easily re-elected with52% of the vote, while his closest competitor, former president Lucio Gutierrez, came in second with only 28%.
Ecuador essentially went through a “reset” of the presidency: Correa’s presidential term which began in 2009 counts as his first term because of the new constitution, even though he had already ruled for two years before the “reset.” InFebruary 2013, Correaran again (his first re-election after the new constitution), and easily beat his competitors in the first round with 57% of the vote. Moreover, Correa’s partyAlianza Pais won 100 seatsof the country’s 137-seat National Assembly.
It is important to highlight that until that point,article 144of Ecuador’s 2008 constitution mandates that a head of state can only run for one presidential term. Moreover, in 2013,Correa himselfdeclared that he was not interested in running again, so his presidency would have ended in 2017.
The situation changed on February 23 when Ecuador’s municipal elections gave significant victories to opposition parties. Namely, opposition candidates won in the capitalQuito as well as Cuenca, and also maintained the control of the country’s second-largest major urban area, Guayaquil.
Speaking about his party’s loss,Correadeclared that “what’s happening in Quito is painful and dangerous; I hope I’m wrong.” He also tried to spin the situation explaining that this was a lesson and that he and his party could be “falling sleeping on their laurels.” On the other hand, Ecuadorian analysts highlighted that the municipal elections showed that “Correa is not invincible.”
A week later, on Saturday, March 1, Correa took his party’s loss one step further, as he declared that he was re-assessing his original statement to not run again: “we will not let the international right to take over the government.” He poetically added that he would not allow for “dark skies in the horizon of the Revolutionary Citizenry.”
Correa himself remains vastly popular among the Ecuadorian citizenry and, barring an economic meltdowna laVenezuela, it is safe to say that he will be re-elected in 2017 if the constitutional reform succeeds. But whether it is healthy for a popular leader, in Ecuador or elsewhere, to perpetuate himself (or herself) in power remains highly debatable.
In an interview with the Ecuadorian state-run news agency Andes,congressman Fabian Solanoargued that the goal of the amendment is not to maintain a single person in power but rather “to maintain a leadership to consolidate a political project towards a healthy socialism”.He also added“socialists have to be the echo of the people and if the homeland needs him I think that President Correa will listen to the people.”
Correa’s current popularity means that most Ecuadorians would likely vote for him in 2017. That means he will have ruled the country for over 14 years (if he steps down from power in 2021), since his original victory in 2006 — a long time for anyone to be a head of state, especially in Latin America, which has a problematic regional history with leaders who perpetuate themselves in power.
Here’s hoping Correa will be the exception to the rule.