Sunday, April 15, 2007

On to the Constituent Assembly

Well, initial results are in, per exit polls as reported by El Comercio, and it's 78.1% yes, with the balance no, about 11% and nulos, the rest. El Comercio and EFE quote Correa as saying that he, "discards foreign models (of one man rule), and that he will maintain a dollarized economy during his four years in office". A separate article in El Comercio quotes Correa as saying but that he will, "superar el nefasto (economic) modelo neoliberal".

Well. We'll see, I guess.

In separate news items yesterday, and a blog today, I note that there has been a $221 million decline in cash in banks (M1) in the first quarter of 2007, and employment has gone down from 48.04% to 44.8% since January, with attendant rises in unemployment from 9.03 to 10.28%, and underemployment from 42.07 to 45.31%. All figures are quoted from the Central Bank of Ecuador (BCE) which is the best tracker of such figures here, and an entity that Correa has said he wants to do away with, criticizing the BCE as a "unnecessary, bloated, bureaucracy". You bet, especially when that bureaucracy comes out with numbers critical of, I guess, a non-neoliberal economic model.

OK, returning to the CA for the moment, the next steps are:

1) The Supreme Electoral Tribunal has eight days to make the definitive results of the Consulta Popular public.

2) As soon as the results are formally published, the TSE will announce the convocation of the CA itself, which signals the start of a 45 day period (those are working days, I believe; the Estatuto doesn't say) during which would-be Asemblistas announce their candidacy and gather signatures equivalent to 1% of the votes cast in last year's Congressional/Presidential elections in the CA candidates' provinces. At the end of this period, the TSE will take 10 more days to validate the signatures of putative candidates, and when the TSE is done, the formal campaign period (another 45 days) starts up.

(It's probably worthwhile to note here, how the CA's supposed to set up:

-- There are to be 130 Asemblistas. One hundred of them will be elected from the country's 22 provinces according to the Congressional breakdown now used. That means for example, that 18 of the Asemblistas will come from Guayas, and 14 will come from Pichincha, the two most populous provinces in the country, and so on. Another 24 Asemblistas would be elected as at-large, national candidates, i.e., coming from anywhere in the country (there'll be separate slate for these guys, obviously), and the last six Asemblistas will represent overseas Ecuadorians, with two reps coming from Europe, North America, and South America, respectively. Any native born Ecuadorian, 20 years and older, can be an Asemblista.)

3) Elections for Asemblistas will be held at the end of the 45 day campaign period, and 10 days after that, the CA will be installed. The CA itself will have a life of 180 days, with an option to extend its ops for another 60 days.

4) After the CA wraps up its deliberations, the hope is that it will present the country with a revised Constitution, revised governance framework, etc., all of which will be submitted to another Consulta Popular Nacional. My guess is that by the time all of the foregoing happens, the next Consulta Popular to approve the CA's work will take place somewhere between March and June of 2008, depending on how smoothly things go - and depending on whether I'm right about working versus calendar days in my estimates.

Ahora, adding up convocation period, inscription period, campaign time, time to get the CA up and running and then 180-240 days for the CA work itself, that's.... around a year for all of this, and that's a lot of time for people here (and particularly investors, big and small, Ecuadorian and foreign) to watch how Correa y cia do.

As noted earlier, it appears that some people have made the decision to get their money out of the country now, but I'd guess that that's the big boys' money. The vast majority of people here are middle and lower class, and most of them don't/won't have the luxury/option of taking their money of the country; they need their funds to pay bills, mortgages, orwhatever, so they're going to have to sit here and pray that political events in the coming months don't adversely affect the economy.

I sure hope that the initial cash flow and employment figures I mention above don't portend continued negative or worsening trends in the coming months. Correa's the kind of guy who, if confronted with private decisions to move capital and etc., is quite capable of doing something crazy like calling bank holidays, freezing funds, or whatever, which would obviously only exacerbate the situation.

His statements about the banks, the BCE, the use of directed credit and so on have already made people nervous (what DID this guy learn at the University of Illinois, anyway?) and now he really, really needs to calm people down, lead and unite the country and not divide it or alarm it any more than it is now.

I can only hope that he or his supporters contain themselves and refrain from further attacks/accusations against business leaders, the media and opponents that might divide/frighten this country even more.

I hope, I hope that's not a forlorn hope.....

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