Some 13.4 million Ecuadorians will go to the polls this Sunday to elect local authorities and vote a key referendum which will decide, among others, if the country accepts the extradition.
The unpopular right-wing president William Lasso, In power since 2021, he called a consultation in November on security, political and environmental issues. Eight questions will be solved in parallel with the elections to elect mayors, provincial governors, among others.
At the center of the debate is the extradition of Ecuadorians, Banned for eight decades. In the midst of his fierce war on drugs, the president defends the handing over of compatriots to other countries if they commit crimes related to transnational organized crime such as drug trafficking.
The elections will take place in a country mired in violence that jumped from the streets to the prisons, with frequent confrontations between prisoners linked to drug trafficking that have left more than 400 dead since 2021. The massacres of inmates have become one of the worst in Latin America .
With a 80% unpopularity, According to the polling company Perfiles de Opinión, Lasso it aspires to “weaken and dismantle the more than 25 criminal gangs that currently operate” in Ecuador, Karen Sichel, undersecretary for Regulatory Affairs of the legal area of the presidency, told AFP.
The homicide rate in the country of 18.2 million people grew to 25 per 100,000 people in 2022, compared to 14 cases the previous year.
In addition, last year some 200 tons of drugs were seized, one of the highest figures in the world.
“We seek to establish one more tool that allows Ecuadorians to face organized crime,” explained Sichel.
Evaluation to the Government
“The referendum ‘will be a form of evaluation’ of the Government that, in the unicameral Congress, faces an opposition majority, although divided”, maintains the political scientist Santiago Basabé.
His opponents, led by the Revolución Ciudadana movement —of former socialist president Rafael Correa (2007-2017)—, promote the No for popular consultation, a mechanism that has served several times to modify the Magna Carta in force since 2008.
A defeat for the ruling party “would be a blow to the government, it would fracture it a little more. The scenario is complicated for the two years that remain,” added Basabe, a professor at the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences (Flacso).
Lasso It also proposes reducing the 137 members of the National Assembly. According to the current regulations, in the general elections of 2025 that number should rise to 152 due to the increase in the population.
This proposal “is extremely dangerous for the stability of the country because it will generate effects on political representation in the distribution of resources and political power among the different provinces,” Basabe estimated.
The voters must answer Yes or No to each of the questions, and those with the greatest support will be approved.
Parliament will have one year to implement the reforms that are approved this Sunday.
In Ecuador there are seven national political parties and 272 movements, the vast majority local and with very few affiliates.
The referendum will also define whether these movements—some suspected of having links to drug trafficking—should be audited by the electoral body, as is the case with the parties, and if they must represent at least 1.5% of voters in their jurisdictions.
The Executive is in favor of removing from the Council for Citizen Participation and Social Control (CPCCS) —created in the Correa government— the power to designate authorities such as prosecutor and comptroller, to give those functions to Parliament.
Also, aspires to include in the list of protected areas the water systems to combat illegal mining and provide compensation to define residents and communities that protect the environment.
“The consultation is irrelevant. In some cases irrelevant and very dangerous (for the institutions) in other cases” such as the reduction of assembly members, Basabe considered.
In Sunday’s vote, between 07:00 and 17:00 local time (12:00 and 22:00 GMT), Ecuadorians will elect local authorities such as mayors, municipal councilors and provincial prefects (governors) who will take office in May for a period of four years. They will also choose the seven members of the CPCCS.
The Electoral Council has ten days to count the votes and will announce the results after resolving possible challenges.