QUITO – Elderly and disabled persons began casting ballots on Friday in a referendum spearheaded by Ecuador’s government that among other things asks voters if they want to end indefinite presidential re-election.
As part of the “Vote at Home” program, people over the age of 65 and those who are more than 75 percent disabled may vote Friday either at their houses or apartments or at assisted-living facilities across Ecuador’s 24 provinces.
Election officials will be bringing physical ballot boxes to those places of residence.
Some 13 million people are eligible to participate in the referendum, which will ask citizens a series of questions, including whether they want to amend the constitution to restrict elected officials to a single re-election to the same office and to strip people convicted of corruption offenses from participating in the country’s political life.
Among other questions, voters also will be asked if they want to amend the nation’s charter to end the statute of limitations on sexual crimes against children and adolescents and prohibit metal mining in protected areas, intangible zones and urban centers.
Voting, which is mandatory in Ecuador, began on Thursday at prisons and other detention centers.
It will conclude on Sunday when the rest of the population living in Ecuador will cast their ballots; those living abroad – an estimated 400,000 registered voters – can participate in the plebiscite voluntarily.
The referendum is taking place amid the backdrop of a feud between current President Lenin Moreno and his political mentor and predecessor Rafael Correa, who governed Ecuador from 2007 to 2017.
Moreno distanced himself from Correa in late July, accusing his former boss in a speech of having left the country in a “critical” financial situation.
The president then stripped his vice president, Jorge Glas, of his official duties after the latter said Moreno was providing false economic data aimed at tarnishing the legacy of Correa’s Citizens’ Revolution.
Glas, a close ally of Correa’s, was subsequently sentenced to six years in prison on Dec. 13 after being found guilty of taking $13.5 million in bribes from Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht in return for his assistance in securing government contracts.
Correa, a left-wing United States-trained economist, had been living in his wife’s homeland of Belgium after leaving office in May of last year but he returned to Ecuador last month to campaign for the “no” vote in the referendum.
Correa was first elected in 2006 and then was re-elected in 2009 (after a new constitution that, among other things, allowed presidents to be elected for a second consecutive term was approved in a 2008 referendum).
He was re-elected once again in 2013, two years before the nation’s legislature voted to abolish term limits from 2021 onwards.
Correa was ineligible to run in the 2017 election that Moreno won, but he could run again in 2021 if indefinite re-election is not nullified.