The opposition is expected to control between 23 and 30 seats with the rest going to centrist and indigenous groups, according to exit polls.

Following the preliminary results, Correa said his supporters had achieved "a historic victory" but gave assurance that the 130-member assembly would not seek totalitarian powers and would call for dialogue with the opposition.

 

But some ministers and candidates have given mixed signals on reforms they want.

 

Reforms

 

The assembly will debate a draft of constitutional reforms put together by academics, and a final version must be approved in a popular referendum after at least six months.

 

Critics say Correa, left, wants to change the
constitution to consolidate power [AP]
The strong majority should allow Correa's party to control the assembly and push to eliminate the power of the political elite he blames for Ecuador's corruption and instability.

 

Lenin Moreno, the vice-president, urged the opposition to accept the people's decision.

 

But a fragmented opposition has vowed to stop Correa from using the assembly to consolidate presidential powers and tighten his grip on key state institutions.

 

In pushing for reforms, Correa has said: "It's necessary to do away with the myths of neo-liberalism."

He called for "21st century socialism" with guarantees for education and free healthcare, but ruled out nationalising private companies.

 
Criticisms

 

Critics say Correa's economic reforms could scare off foreign investors.
 
They also say Correa is seeking to consolidate power by turning the Andean country into a socialist state, following his close ally Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan president - a claim Correa dismisses.


They claim that, like Chavez, Correa would use the constituent assembly to concentrate power in his own hands.

Ana Maria Correa, a political analyst based in the capital Quito, and of no relation to the president, said Correa's government "has a certain moral superiority, the idea that they are finally heading a revolution that has been proposed for more than 30 years".

"At times, this revolutionary logic is leaving procedures, rules, the law, by the wayside."

Source: Agencies