Page last updated at 05:12 GMT, Friday, 25 July 2008 06:12 UK

Ecuador draft constitution passed

Ecuador assembly members celbrate winning the vote (24 July 2008)
Supporters of President Rafael Correa dominate the constituent assembly

A special constituent assembly in Ecuador has overwhelmingly approved a draft of a new constitution sought by the country's President, Rafael Correa.

Ninety-four of the 130 assembly members backed the text, which will be put to a national referendum on 28 September.

The left-wing leader says the reforms, which would allow him to stand again, will tackle political instability and make Ecuador a more just society.

But critics say they will focus more power in the president's hands.

Mr Correa, who made reforming the constitution a key part of his 2007 election campaign, enjoys widespread popular support in his country.

In April, nearly 80% of voters backed his call for an assembly that would bypass Congress and rewrite the constitution. In September, they gave 80 of the 130 seats to his Alianza Pais party.

The 444-article constitution will be the Andean nation's 20th if it is approved in the referendum later this year.

It would enable Mr Correa to run for two new, consecutive terms, and let him dissolve Congress within the first three years of its four-year term.

The document would also give the president functions currently performed by Ecuador's independent Central Bank.

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