September 29, 2008

Ecuadorans Grant New Powers to President

Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa says he has a mandate for social change after voters overwhelmingly approved new powers for the presidency.

Preliminary results from Sunday's referendum balloting on a new constitution indicated that at least 65 percent of Ecuadorans voted in favor of the proposal, giving the president the power to dissolve the National Congress once each term, although such moves would also trigger presidential elections, The Washington Post reported.

Political analysts said that if confirmed, the vote would give Correa an important victory. The 45-year-old former economic minister is pushing for rapid social change as part of a vision to alleviate poverty and weaken the country's traditional elite, the Post said.

"Today Ecuador has decided on a new nation," Correa told cheering supporters in Guayaquil. "The old structures are defeated. This confirms the citizens' revolution."

Correa's opponents warned the new constitution will allow him to consolidate too much control over the economy and strategic industries without sufficient checks on his authority.

Other South American leaders, such as Venezuela's Hugo Chavez and Bolivia's Evo Morales, have pushed for new constitutions to grant expanded powers to the presidency, the Post said.