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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Ecuador high court creates oral argument system as new constitution takes effect
Andrew Gilmore at 8:20 AM ET

[JURIST] The Ecuadorean Supreme Court of Justice and the Constitutional Tribunal of Ecuador [official website, in Spanish] on Tuesday published a statement [text, in Spanish] laying out the first steps in enacting a system of oral arguments, as required by the new Ecuadorean constitution [text, in Spanish]. The constitution, which took effect Monday upon publication in the country's official gazette following its approval last month in a national referendum [JURIST report], consolidates and significantly broadens the powers held by leftist President Rafael Correa [official website, in Spanish; BBC profile]. The new constitution gives the president the power to remove Congress in the middle of a four-year term, to control monetary policy and to seek re-election for an additional term. It also includes plans to tighten control over Ecuador's vital mining and oil industries. AFP has more. From Ecuador, El Universo has local coverage, in Spanish.

Last month, President Correa called the vote a "historic victory," commenting [Reuters report; official statement, in Spanish], "Today, Ecuador has decided on a new nation, the old structures are defeated." The special assembly charged with rewriting the constitution provisionally approved the document in July [JURIST report]. The success of Correa's referendum fulfills his pledge to rewrite the country's constitution [JURIST report] after his leftist coalition's landslide victory [JURIST report] in October 2007. Correa's Alianza PAIS party [official website, in Spanish] has a majority in the Constituent Assembly. Critics continue to fear that the 444-article constitution gives the president too much control over the economy and the judiciary, which would allow Correa to follow the example set by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez [BBC profile] in using the reform to further expand his powers.

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