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Page last updated at 16:13 GMT, Monday, 29 September 2008 17:13 UK

Ecuadoreans back new constitution

Rafael Correa in Guayaquil - 28/09/2008
Mr Correa said his "citizen's revolution" had been confirmed

Ecuadorean voters have convincingly approved a new constitution that increases presidential powers.

With most ballots counted, results show 64% of voters backed the charter, an outcome President Rafael Correa hailed as a "historic win".

He has said the new constitution will help bring about a more just society and tackle instability in Ecuador.

It will enable him to run for two new, consecutive terms. But critics say it gives the president too much power.

The constitution allows him to dissolve Congress within the first three years of its four-year term.

The 444-article constitution will be the Andean nation's 20th.

The package contains some of the most wide-ranging proposals the country - or any country in the region - has seen, says the BBC's Daniel Schweimler.

Investors worried

"We're making history! Onward!" President Correa urged a crowd of supporters in his coastal hometown of Guayaquil.

"This is confirmation of the citizen's revolution we're offering."

Mr Correa, a 45-year-old US-trained economist, has said he is fulfilling the promises he made when he won elections nearly two years ago.

He was elected following years of turmoil in Ecuador which saw angry crowds throw three presidents from office in the previous 10 years.

KEY POINTS
Tightening controls of vital industries and reducing monopolies
Declaring some foreign loans illegitimate
Expropriating and redistributing idle farm land
Allowing the president to stand for a second four-year term in office
Giving free health care for older citizens
Allowing civil marriage for gay partners

The articles in the proposed constitution include plans to tighten control of vital industries such as oil and mining.

Some foreign loans could be declared illegitimate so they would not have to be paid and there are plans to give free health care to older citizens.

President Correa is offering more say in the running of the country to women, the poor and Ecuador's large indigenous community.

He says he is trying to reduce the power and influence of the business and land-owning elite which has always run the country.

Not surprisingly, there has been opposition to the proposals, says our South America correspondent.

Some say Mr Correa is a puppet of the Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez, and that the state will interfere unnecessarily in business affairs.

Foreign investors, especially in Ecuador's oil industry, are concerned that the new laws will reduce their profits and that the country will not pay its foreign debts, he says.

The US, he adds, will be worried about what many there see as another move to the left in Latin America.

In his speech after the referendum, Mr Correa urged those who voted against the new constitution to put aside their differences.

"Let them acknowledge defeat and let's strike out together in the new direction the great majority of Ecuadoreans, as well as all Latin America, are setting: a society with more justice, much more equality and without so much... misery."




SEE ALSO
Ecuador's poor bank on referendum
27 Sep 08 |  Americas
Ecuador draft constitution passed
25 Jul 08 |  Americas
Ecuador state seizes TV stations
08 Jul 08 |  Americas
Ecuador plans foreign bases ban
02 Apr 08 |  Americas
Ecuador forum dissolves Congress
30 Nov 07 |  Americas
Country profile: Ecuador
16 Apr 08 |  Country profiles

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