Ecuador president dissolves legislature, bringing vote forward

Facing impeachment process, Guillermo Lasso orders early elections in move that he says aims to end political crisis.

Ecuador’s President Guillermo Lasso sitting in front of a flag. He is wearing glasses.
Ecuador’s President Guillermo Lasso has invoked a constitutional clause known as 'two-way death', dissolving the legislature and ending his presidency early [File: Mayela Lopez/Reuters]

Ecuador’s President Guillermo Lasso has dissolved the opposition-controlled National Assembly in a decree, bringing forward legislative and presidential elections, a day after he presented his defence in an impeachment process against him.

Following the move on Wednesday, the right-wing president can govern for up to six months by decree until new elections are held under the South American country’s constitution. Elections were previously set for May 2025.

The National Electoral Council now has seven days to call presidential and legislative elections, which must be held within 90 days. Those elected will finish the terms of Lasso and the lawmakers he removed.

Lasso denies accusations he turned a blind eye to alleged embezzlement related to a contract at state-owned oil transportation company Flota Petrolera Ecuatoriana (FLOPEC).

A majority of lawmakers had backed a resolution saying Lasso allowed the corrupt contract to continue, even though a congressional oversight committee, which heard testimony from opposition lawmakers, officials and Lasso’s lawyer, said in its report it did not recommend impeachment.

Impeachment proceedings had begun Tuesday, prompting Lasso to invoke the constitutional clause known as “two-way death” with the dissolution of the legislature and ending his presidency early.

“Ecuador needs a new political and social pact to allow it to escape from the serious political crisis the country is in, and which unfortunately is getting worse day by day,” Lasso said in a recorded address aired on TV Wednesday morning. “We need to move forward to a solution that can give hope to Ecuadorian families for a future of wellbeing and stability.”

He called the move “democratic” and constitutional, saying that it aims to return power to Ecuadorians.

Reporting from the Ecuadorian capital Quito, Al Jazeera’s Alessandro Rampietti said the National Assembly, Ecuador’s legislative body, is now closed.

Pending a new vote, which could lead to a new president as early as August, the Constitutional Court of Ecuador will act as a “control mechanism” as Lasso rules by executive order, Rampietti added.

Lasso already decreed a tax reform order in Wednesday’s broadcast, which he said would lower taxes for Ecuadoreans.

Some lawmakers have said any dissolution would be unconstitutional, and that they would refuse to comply.

Ecuador’s military and police “have and will hold their absolute respect for the constitution and law”, Nelson Proano, commander of Ecuador’s armed forces, said in a video statement, adding that Lasso’s decision to dissolve the assembly was enshrined under the constitution.

Police and members of the military surrounded the National Assembly building, allowing no one inside, according to a Reuters witness.

“This essentially means that the impeachment process is over,” Rampietti said.

He added that the National Assembly and the president have been in a “game of brinkmanship” for months as lawmakers try to remove Lasso from power.

“Ecuadorians here are very tired about not only the worsening economic situation but also the degrading security situation,” Rampietti said.

“For many years, Ecuador was a relatively safe haven in Latin America, but recently it has become the main transport hub for drug trafficking … This has brought high levels of violence here in the capital Quito and especially along the coast.”

Source: Al Jazeera, Reuters