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Ecuador’s Electoral Dispute Court Reverses the Suspension of Rafael Correa’s Party

Ex-president Rafael Correa and members of his political alliance celebrated the decision, though roadblocks to political participation remain.
Ecuador’s former President Rafael Correa

Rafael Correa, who was in office from 2007 to 2017, maintains strong popular support in Ecuador. His political coalition appears as a strong contender for the 2021 general elections, though he faces considerable challenges to participate as a candidate.

Ecuador’s Electoral Dispute Tribunal (TCE), on August 2, nullified the resolution of the National Electoral Council (CNE) that had suspended four political parties, including the Fuerza Compromiso Social or Social Commitment Force, headed by former President Rafael Correa. Judge Fernando Muñoz concluded that the CNE’s resolution did not have due support and violated “the rights of political organization of thousands of citizens who presented their support for the formation of a political organization.” However, the CNE still has 72 hours to appeal the decision.

On July 19, the CNE suspended the registration of the Social Commitment Force, Libertad es PuebloJusticia Social and Podemos and banned them from taking part in the 2021 general elections. The decision was taken in response to a request from the State Comptroller’s office, which allegedly observed irregularities in the registration processes of these four political forces.

Judge Muñoz’s ruling came from an appeal filed by Manuel Castilla, national director of Justicia Social, who contested the CNE’s resolution, arguing that it is illegal and lacks valid grounds to suspend political movements.

President Correa and members of his party celebrated the decision. “An electoral judge who does the right thing in these quantum and pandemic times. Finally!” wrote Correa in a tweet.

Vanessa Freire, president of the Social Commitment Movement for the Citizen’s Revolution, a coalition of left-wing and progressive forces for the 2021 elections, tweeted that “we continue to be the hope of millions of Ecuadorians to recover the homeland.”

Political persecution in the courts

Correa’s own political aspirations have also been impeded by a combination of electoral reforms passed by Moreno’s governmentand the leveling of corruption charges against him.

In recent months, the former president had expressed his intentions to stand as a candidate for vice-president, since a constitutional reform from 2018 does not allow him a new presidential term.

Another recent reform on electoral laws establishes that in order to stand in elections, participants must present their candidature in person in the country. Correa is currently residing with his family in Brussels, Belgium and is unable to return to Ecuador because of the legal persecution he is suffering from. On April 7, Ecuador’s national court of justice sentenced him to 8 years in prison on bribery and corruption charges.

Two weeks ago, on July 20, the court rejected Correa’s appeal and confirmed his sentence for the “Bribes 2012-2016” case, an alleged corruption case, in which former ministers and government officials accepted bribes from private companies in exchange for public contracts. Correa’s lawyers have one more opportunity to appeal the conviction.

Correa has been facing constant political harassment under the rule of current president Lenín Moreno. In August, 2019, preventive detention was ordered against him in the above mentioned corruption case. In July, 2018, the court ordered a preventive detention of Correa, accusing him of being complicit in the failed kidnapping of right-wing opposition leader Fernando Balda.

Correa, who was in office from 2007 to 2017, still maintains strong popular support in the country. His rule was characterized by social and public welfare programs. Moreno, who was Correa’s vice president from 2007 to 2013, promised to continue his legacy in the 2017 presidential election. However, after Moreno was elected, he shifted his political stance, distancing himself from Correa’s left-wing politics and promoting neoliberal policies domestically and aligning Ecuador’s foreign policy with the US interests.

Ecuador’s general elections are scheduled for February 7, 2021. The political parties will hold primary elections to define the candidates who will take part in the 2021 general election between August 9 and 23.

Since the massive protests in October 2019 against Moreno’s austerity measures and especially after the mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic that caused the collapse of the healthcare system in main cities of the country, the government of Lenín Moreno seems weak in the next elections. On the other hand, Correísmo, despite legal obstacles, appears as a strong rival.

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