QUITO, July 7 President Rafael Correa could
stay in office until 2017 under a constitutional proposal to
relax term limits that was approved over the weekend by
The 130-member assembly lifted a constitutional restriction
that bars a president from being re-elected to a second
consecutive term. A president would still not be allowed to
serve more than two consecutive terms.
The proposal, which must be ratified in a referendum, could
allow the popular Correa to stay in office far longer than his
last three predecessors who were toppled by popular
demonstrations and opposition-led legislatures
In Ecuador, the presidential term lasts four years.
The widely popular Correa, who was elected in November 2006
and took office in January 2007, is expected to run for
re-election early next year, and his allies in the assembly say
the proposal would allow him to run once again after that.
They say his re-election in 2009 would count as his first
election because it would be the first under the new
Critics and opposition politicians say Correa, a leftist
who took office on pledges to help the poor, is seeking
dictatorial powers in the world's top banana exporter.
Other popular Latin American leaders such as Colombia's
Alvaro Uribe and Venezuela's Hugo Chavez have also eased
re-election rules to stay in office longer.
They may also promote further changes to prolong their time
in power in what some political analysts worry could undermine
weak democratic institutions in the region.
The assembly controlled by Correa's allies has approved
constitutional reforms to boost the former economy minister's
political powers and increase his government control over the
oil-producing country's economy.
The new constitution needs to be ratified by Ecuadoreans in
a vote expected in the last quarter of this year. The assembly,
which is rewriting the constitution and also acts as Congress,
has to pass nearly 400 reforms before its July 26 deadline and
faces a tough vote to ratify the document, pollsters say.
(Reporting by Alonso Soto; editing by Saul Hudso and