One of the main priorities of Ecuador’s constituent assembly, set to convene Oct. 30, will be to counteract the “barbarism that prevails in the economy” and to dismantle the economic model that exists today so as to benefit “the most dispossessed sectors in the country,” according to President Rafael Correa.

The president spoke to reporters the day after his Alliance for the Country movement apparently won up to 80 of the 130 available seats in the assembly, which is charged with devising the nation’s 20th constitution. Some 9.3 million Ecuadorians sifted through 3,229 candidates on Sept. 30 to choose 100 delegates representing provincial districts, 24 delegates from a national list, and six representing citizens living abroad.

A full count will take over 20 days. A day after the voting, Correa’s forces seem to have taken 62.5 percent of the votes, the remainder divided among at least eight other parties. Estimates of the extent of Correa’s victory are based on exit polls and early vote counting. Since his election in January 2007, Correa has consistently enjoyed 75 percent approval ratings in public opinion polls.

The constituent assembly will meet in Montecristi, birthplace of Ecuador’s revolutionary hero Eloy Alfaro, and will take six months to complete its work. It will be allowed a 60-day extension, if needed. A two-thirds majority is required to approve a constitution.

Last April 15, Ecuadorians voted to create the assembly by an 82.5 percent majority. Part of the process included a ban on buying votes through gifts and donations, an action directed at banana tycoon Alvaro Noboa, a three-time presidential candidate. A $30 million public financing fund was created to enable all candidates to purchase media time.

At his press conference, Correa declared, “The victory of the people is unquestionable.” He predicted installation of the assembly would bring “profound changes in the country for the good of all.”

Observers place Correa in the same category as Presidents Evo Morales of Bolivia and Hugo Chavez of Venezuela as proponents of “socialism of the 21st century.” Partly as a result of this, he has been attacked by his opponents for emulating “foreign models,” a charge he denies.

Observers said four right-wing political parties will share 23-25 of the assembly seats, with three small left-wing parties taking seven seats. The latter groups back the president in rejecting the U.S. Manta military base, the so-called free trade agreement with the U.S., and the International Monetary Fund. However, they criticize Correa for vacillating in his support of Ecuadorian miners.

One of the assembly’s first actions will probably be to dissolve the present Parliament and to setting up a parliamentary commission to collaborate with the president in creating social support systems for Ecuador’s poor. Correa supporters see Ecuador’s Parliament as the stronghold of the traditional party system which, they say, is tied in with moneyed interests.

The constituent assembly is expected to authorize nationalization of natural resources, establish health care as a right, create conditions for a “pluri-national,” or multi-ethnic democracy, and do away with term limits for president.

atwhit @megalink.net

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