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Last Updated: Tuesday, 13 February 2007, 18:46 GMT
Ecuador Congress backs referendum
Rafael Correa speaks after being sworn in as president
Mr Correa is taking the political party system head on
Ecuador's Congress has backed a call by the president for a referendum that could lead to the country's constitution being rewritten.

The referendum would decide whether to form a national assembly that would then consider reforms.

President Rafael Correa, who was elected in January, says the power of traditional parties must be curbed.

The motion was passed in the 100-seat Congress by 57-1. Most opposition members walked out before the vote.

An agreement between pro-government lawmakers and a minority opposition party helped the motion through.

An attempt to discuss the measure last month was cancelled after pro-Correa supporters stormed the session, accusing opposition politicians of blocking reform.

Opinion poll backing

Congress on Tuesday ruled out a vote on 18 March, as requested by Mr Correa, saying it was too soon.

Doubts also still remain as to who would organise the referendum.

The Supreme Electoral Tribunal says it does not have the funding.

Mr Correa says if it cannot organise the vote, a special court should take its place.

However, Congress on Tuesday said that would "violate the constitutional order and lack legal foundation".

About 70% would vote in favour of the national assembly, opinion polls suggest.

Mr Correa says the traditional party system is behind the country's economic plight.

Opposition figures say Mr Correa is trying to copy the radical measures of his ally, Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez.


SEE ALSO
Protesters storm Ecuador Congress
31 Jan 07 |  Americas
Profile: Ecuador's Rafael Correa
27 Nov 06 |  Americas
Ecuador votes for break with past
27 Nov 06 |  Americas
Correa 'wins Ecuador's election'
28 Nov 06 |  Americas
Country profile: Ecuador
29 Nov 06 |  Country profiles



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