Politics of Ecuador

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The constitution of Ecuador provides for concurrent four-year terms of office for the president, vice president, and members of Congress. Presidents may be re-elected after an intervening term, while legislators may be re-elected immediately. Citizens must be at least 18 years of age to vote. Suffrage is universal and compulsory for literate persons ages 18-65 and optional for other eligible voters.

The executive branch includes 15 ministries. Provincial governors and councilors, like mayors and aldermen and parish boards, are directly elected. Congress meets throughout the year except for recess in July and December. There are 20 seven-member congressional committees.

Former Vice President Alfredo Palacio assumed the presidency on April 20 2005 after Congress removed Lucio Gutiérrez amid escalating street protests precipitated by growing criticism of Gutiérrez Supreme Court appointments.

New justices of the Supreme Court are elected by the sitting members of the court. A bare majority of Congress, acting in a special session called by former President Lucio Gutiérrez in December, 2004, ousted 27 of the 31 justices and replaced them with new members chosen by Congress, notwithstanding the lack of any provisions permitting impeachment of Supreme Court justices by Congress and the specific provisions giving the Court the power to select new members. Earlier, in November 2004, Congress replaced the majority of judges on the country’s Electoral Court and Constitutional Court by a similar process.

Political conditions
Ecuador's political parties have historically been small, loose organizations that depended more on populist, often charismatic, leaders to retain support than on programs or ideology. Frequent internal splits have produced extreme factionalism. However, a pattern has emerged in which administrations from the center-left alternate with those from the center-right. Although Ecuador's political elite is highly factionalized along regional, ideological, and personal lines, a strong desire for consensus on major issues often leads to compromise. Opposition forces in Congress are loosely organized, but historically they often unite to block the administration's initiatives and to remove cabinet ministers.

Constitutional changes enacted by a specially elected National Constitutional Assembly in 1998 took effect on August 10, 1998. The new constitution strengthens the executive branch by eliminating mid-term congressional elections and by circumscribing Congress' power to challenge cabinet ministers. Party discipline is traditionally weak, and routinely many deputies switch allegiance during each Congress. However, after the new Constitution took effect, the Congress passed a code of ethics which imposes penalties on members who defy their party leadership on key votes.

Beginning with the 1996 election, the indigenous population abandoned its traditional policy of shunning the official political system and participated actively. The indigenous population has established itself as a significant force in Ecuadorian politics, as shown by the selection of indigenous representative Nina Pacari, who led the indigenous political party, Pachakutik, as second vice president of the 1998 Congress. The next presidential and congressional elections are currently scheduled for 2006.

Political parties and leaders:
(Main article: List of political parties in Ecuador)
The primary political parties are: Concentration of Popular Forces or CFP [Averroes Bucaram]; Democratic Left or ID [Rodrigo Borja Cevallos]; National Action Institutional Renewal Party or PRIAN [Álvaro Noboa]; Pachakutik Movement [Gilberto Talahua]; Patriotic Society Party or PSP [Lucio Gutiérrez Borbúa]; Popular Democracy or DP [Dr. Juan Manuel Fuertes]; Popular Democratic Movement or MPD [Gustavo Teran Acosta]; Radical Alfarista Front or FRA [Fabian Alarcon, director]; Roldosist Party or PRE [Abdala Bucaram Ortiz, director]; Social Christian Party or PSC [Pascual Del Cioppo]; Socialist Party - Broad Front or PS-FA [Victor Granda]
note: political blocs include: far left - MPD; populist - CFP and P-NP; populist left - PRE; center left - ID, DP, and FRA; center right - PSC and PCE

Executive branch:
chief of state: President Alfredo Palacio (since 20 April 2005); Vice President Alejandro Serrano; note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government
head of government: President Alfredo Palacio (since 20 April 2005); Vice President Alejandro Serrano; note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government
cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the president
elections: The president and vice president are elected on the same ticket by popular vote for four-year term (no reelection); Lucio Gutiérrez was dramatically removed by an act of Congress on 20 April 2005; election last held 20 October 2002; runoff election held 24 November 2002 (next to be held 2006)
election results: Results of the last election were: Lucio Gutiérrez elected president; percent of vote - 54%

Legislative branch: Ecuador has a unicameral National Congress or Congreso Nacional. There are 100 members, who are elected by popular vote by province to serve four-year terms. Ecuador is divided into 22 provinces: Azuay, Bolívar, Cañar, Carchi, Chimborazo, Cotopaxi, El Oro, Esmeraldas, Galápagos Islands, Guayas, Imbabura, Loja, Los Ríos, Manabí, Morona-Santiago, Napo, Orellana, Pastaza, Pichincha, Sucumbíos, Tungurahua, Zamora-Chinchipe
elections: last held 20 October 2002 (next to be held 2006)
election results: Seats by party - DP 32, PSC 27, PRE 24, ID 18, P-NP 9, FRA 5, PCE 3, MPD 2, CFP 1; note - defections by members of National Congress are commonplace, resulting in frequent changes in the numbers of seats held by the various parties

Political pressure groups and leaders: Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador or CONAIE [Leonidas Iza, president]; Coordinator of Social Movements or CMS [F. Napoleon Santos]; Federation of Indigenous Evangelists of Ecuador or FEINE [Marco Murillo, president]; National Federation of Indigenous Afro-Ecuatorianos and Peasants or FENOCIN [Pedro De La Cruz, president]; Popular Front or FP [Luis Villacis]

Legal system: Ecuador's legal system is based on the civil law system. Ecuador has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction.

International organization participation: Ecuador or Ecuadorian organizations participate in the following international organizations: the Andean Community of Nations (CAN), Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Group of Eleven (G-11), Group of 77 (G-77), Inter-American Development Bank (IADB), International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (World Bank), International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), ICC, ICC, International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), International Red Cross, International Development Association (IDA), International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), International Finance Corporation (IFC), International Hydrographic Organization (IHO), International Labor Organization (ILO), IMF, International Maritime Organization (IMO), International Telecommunications Satellite Organization (Intelsat), Interpol, IOC, International Organization for Migration (IOM), International Organization for Standardization (ISO), International Telecommunication Union (ITU), Latin American Economic System (LAES), Latin American Integration Association (LAIA), Nonaligned Movement (NAM), OAS, Agency for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean (OPANAL), Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA), RG, United Nations, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), Universal Postal Union (UPU), World Confederation of Labor (WCL), World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU), World Health Organization (WHO), World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), World Meteorological Organization (WMO), World Tourism Organization (WToO), World Trade Organization (WTO)

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