Argus Media Limited

05/17/2023 | News release | Distributed by Public on 05/17/2023 09:49

Ecuador's Lasso dissolves congress, calls elections

Ecuadorian president Guillermo Lasso invoked a constitutional mechanism today to dissolve congress and call for presidential and legislative elections in about six months, the latest instability in the Andean country recently invited to rejoin Opec.

The dissolution - supported by the police and military - comes one day after Lasso presented his defense in an impeachment trial against him in congress, launched because of accusations he took part in corruption in state-owned companies, mainly in state-owned oil fleet Flopec. The one-chamber congress was trying to gather the necessary 92 votes out of 137 seats to impeach Lasso, but the vote never took place.

Lasso instead signed a decree referring to article 148 of the Ecuadorian constitution that allows the president to dissolve congress for "severe political crisis and domestic unrest."

This constitutional tool known as "crossed death" merited use because legislators have blocked all his bills proposed in the last two years and sabotaged the work of ministries, Lasso argued in a speech broadcast early this morning.

After his announcement, around 500 members of the national army and police surrounded the congressional building in downtown Quito, blocking the entry of the now-former legislators.

The chiefs of the joint command of the armed forces and the national police said they would accept Lasso's decision, and would work to prevent violence.

The National Electoral Council (CNE) has seven days to call for national elections and then 90 days to carry them out. Ecuador should hold elections for a new president and congress by September or October, and the presidential election could go into November if it reaches a second round. The new president will govern for only two years because it is the remaining time of Lasso's presidency.

Meanwhile, Lasso will govern through decrees that will be reviewed only by the constitutional court. Lasso today already sent a tax reform decree to reduce taxes.

The Pachakutik opposition party plans to file a complaint before the constitutional court to block the dissolution of the national assembly. This party is the political wing of the national confederation of indigenous organizations, which led a 17-day strike in June 2022 that paralyzed the country.

The dissolution is the latest political unrest in Ecuador, including the resignation and later arrest of a former energy minister. This could delays decisions such as whether or not to rejoin Opec after it left for a second time in 2020. Ecuador would again be one of the group's smallest members, with about 463,000 b/d of output from January-April.

By Alberto Araujo