Thursday, October 4, 2007

Election Results

As far as I can tell from here, Ecuador's election last Sunday has been pretty much ignored in the American press, which surprises me and doesn't surprise me. Of course US media outlets don't cover every little third-world election. But Ecuador was electing a constitutional assembly to rewrite the constitution, with candidates promising to oust the capitalists in congress and more. Where do you think your bananas and tilapia for fish tacos and sushi come from?

Last year, Rafael Correa was elected president from a new party, Alianza PAIS, that refused to run any candidates for Congress. The President, who is quite close with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, ran on a platform of reforming the government through a rewrite of the constitution. Before the election, he wasn't expecting to win an all-out majority, but that he did. With 70-plus seats out of 130, he can set up the government however he pleases (subject to a popular referendum.) The first order of business when the assembly meets at the end of the month will be to dissolve Congress--though Correa is careful to call it a recess--and appoint a temporary legislative body. There are proposals to change to a two-house legislature, to popularly elect supreme court judges (this is supposed to depoliticize the courts!), and generally give more power to the executive. Those on the right fear Correa becoming a socialist dictator. Correa himself seems warm to the idea of reuniting Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, and Bolivia as a single country. And while he says that keeping the dollar as the national currency is the only prudent option at the moment, he dreams of a single South American currency like the Euro.

Interestingly though, the campaigns barely mentioned these major issues, except when asked directly by journalists. The propaganda of every party just talked about how they were going to provide better education, better health-care, better environmental protection, a better economy. People went to the polls (voting is mandatory) with no idea what the specific proposals were, largely voting for Correa's personality and against entrenched, corrupt powers that haven't made anything better, I think.

Even though change is pretty frequent here--there have been 19 constitutions since 1830, and 9 presidents since this constitution was written in 1997--it seems like potentially momentous and--importantly--peaceful change taking place here right now. Change that could actually affect the US. So I thought I'd give you a little hint of what's going on.

(It turns out TIME does have an article on the topic this week. It covers the failure of democracy across South America. Interesting, short, and sweet. Read it, or just look at the picture of Correa.

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