by Ambra Visentin
Known as ‘mutual death’, it is the mechanism provided for in the Ecuadorian constitution that allows the president to dissolve parliament if he believes it is affecting his ability to govern. The measure stipulates that new elections, both presidential and parliamentary, must be held within six months. President Guillermo Lasso dissolved the National Assembly by decree on Wednesday ‘due to the serious political crisis and internal unrest’, according to an official statement, and called for new elections. This is the first time an Ecuadorian head of state has used this power of dissolution, which can only be used once in the first three years of his term. The newly elected will remain in office until the date of the regular elections in 2025.
The move comes in the middle of Lasso’s impeachment trial, the first of its kind in decades. The opposition in parliament is accusing the president of embezzling public funds in connection with a public contract for the transport of crude oil. Lasso is alleged to have been aware of several contracts for the transport of oil (the country’s main export) that had been fraudulently awarded to the detriment of Ecuador, and to have failed to intervene to cancel them at the beginning of his term of office in 2021. The President denies the accusations in their entirety and declares his ‘absolute innocence’. The contracts were allegedly signed during the previous government and the impeachment is nothing more than a political manoeuvre to remove him from office.
The trial was largely led by the left-wing party (47 seats in parliament) of former president Rafael Correa, who leads the opposition despite being sentenced in absentia to eight years in prison for corruption and living in exile in Belgium. Correa called the decision the ‘final nail in Lasso’s political coffin’. The ‘mutual death’ measure is considered unconstitutional by some parliamentarians, and some have spoken of a dictatorship in refusing to comply with the dissolution of the National Assembly.
The dissolution of parliament could prove advantageous for the opposition. Indeed, Santiago Cahuasqui, a political scientist at Quito’s SEK University, told AFP that “the right-wing sectors are weakened by the presence of a government with an approval rating of less than 15%”. In the event of early elections, ‘the centre and left sectors could have more opportunities and prospects’.
US State Department deputy spokesman Vedant Patel urged ‘government institutions, society and citizens to ensure that democratic processes are implemented for the people of Ecuador’.
Cover image: Guillermo Lasso, © Casa de America on Flickr