Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Things to Consider in Coming Weeks

Odds and ends, cats and dogs subjects, loose items to look into or expound on as we move into the Constituent Assembly season:

1) At this point, the three major, traditional parties, PSP, PRIAN, and the PSC are in total disarray, with many, if not most of their lead players (who were mostly Diputados fired by the TSE in March) out of Congress, and out of political action (they can't even vote, at least through the election of members of the CA).

So, what, if anything, are the survivors/leaders of these parties doing right now? I would think that if there's any will to go on in the parties (right; like any cockroach with its head chopped off, a politico still keeps going), that people like Febres Cordero, Cynthia Viteri, Alvaro Noboa, and various PSP cronies are working their asses off to get candidates up from their parties for the CA itself.

2) The Estatuto that was just approved hace dos dias says that members of the CA will be elected on a "proportional basis", drawing members from the 22 Provinces, etc., along the lines I laid out in Sunday's post. What the Estatuto DOESN'T say is how the winners will be chosen from each Province. I'm assuming (thinking like a gringo, here, I'll admit) that members elected would be the top xxx number of vote getters in their Province, e.g., the 14 candidates getting the most votes in Pichincha, for example. That said, this is Ecuador, so it'll be interesting to see what the TSE says about vote counting and winner identification methods in the coming weeks.

3) A Commission of.... nine, I believe, retired Constitutional jurists have been at work over the last three/four weeks, preparing a draft document, a draft Constitution, actually, for the CA's initial consideration when it opens up shop later this year. The draft document uses the current Constitution as a point of departure, while, as I understand it, taking into account suggestions submitted by citizens' groups, ngo's, and individuals, intended to "improve things". I use quotes around that last phrase, because Lord knows what kind of suggestions are flooding into the drafting Commission's in box.

Reading and listening to interviews with some members of the Commission, I get the sense that they're leaving basic freedoms of speech and assembly, right to private property, political activity, and so on, alone, and sancrosanct, as well as the concept of governmental checks and balances and independent branches (lots of sensitivity to the Venezuelan model, which no longer has independent branchs of legislature and judiciary; all report to Chavez one way or another).

4) Subjects that will be hot button items for the CA:

--- Authorities/methods for naming heads of control insitutions in this country, including the Controller General's Office (kind of a combo GAO/Inspector General for the GOE), the Fiscal General (sometimes known as the Public Ministry; this is role analogous to that of the U.S. Solicitor, but not/not the Attorney General, who's known as the Procurador General here), and the Superintendencies of Banks and Insurance (Entities) and Companies, which regulate activities of these business entities. Correa is big proponent of changing this to take influence on this away from political parties. Trade off, of course, is if not the parties, then who? (Hint: His initials are Rafael Correa!)

--- Determination of the roles of the Central Bank of Ecuador (BCE), indeed, deciding whether there'll be a BCE at all. (NB: The attractive thing - to me, anyway - about the BCE is that it's an independent, repeat, independent monitor/reporting source on economic trends in country, which is problematic for any politico, especially Correa, who's intent on proving that his/his economic model is the right one for Ecuador).

--- Doing away with political party of control of the Supreme Court (analogous to the U.S. Federal Courts of Appeal), the Constitutional Tribunal (as its name implies...), and ironically, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal which effectively trashed the Congress last month. Correa's big leader on this theme.

--- Development of a more representative Congress. At present, there's a beautiful system for the traditional political parties, whereby Diputados are elected on a slate, at-large basis, ensuring continued control of the most populous Provinces. The same system precludes personal responsibility of the Diputados to any part of their Province, because all 18 Diputados in Guayas, for example represent the ENTIRE Province since there are no Congressional districts. A lot of people, including, notably, Correa, want to correct this, but in setting up districts, you're pulled into the question of population balance between the Provinces which could bring Ecuador back to a bicameral legislature, which I understand existed years ago.

--- Neoliberal economics vs. regulated economies - or maybe it won't be a "versus" question, so much as a mixed arrangement. Correa and team are true 70's statist die-hards who want to bring back directed credit, planned economies, super strong labor unions, and etc... The argument is that open market economies (Washington consensus, neolibs, etc.) have produced only lackluster growth in Latin America over the last 15-20 years and therefore, to listen to Correa, this should all be done away with to make way for state oversight of the private sector. Right. Well, again, we'll see what happens here. BTW, Correa was clear Sunday night that he won't tumbar/reversar dollarization; hope not, because he'll bring the place down tout suite if he does...

--- On this same subject (economics), Correa's put his finger on one, hot item with which resonates with a lot of people, including me, and that's the subject of exorbitant interest rates, fees, and commissions charged by the small and successful banking community here. Despite protests from donors, international groups like the IMF and the WB, not to mention the poor folks trapped in the capital markets here banks have held stubbornly to their oligopolistic practices and just taken borrowers to the cleaners.... Anyway, Correa has singled out the bankers for special opprobrium, calling them thieves, rats, and well, not very nice guys. The banking community was taken by surprise by all this because they'd operated pretty much with impunity for years; not any more

5) Regional (read, Venezuela) alliances: Not where will this go, but how far?

6) Before I forget it: Way too many comentaristas are equating the big majority vote in favor of a CA with Correa, saying that it's enhanced his political standing/power, and so on.

Yeah, well, some of that dynamic applies, for sure, but my own feeling is that there's way too much tendency to make this whole reform process into a power building exercise for Correa. Look, I don't have any illusions about this guy: I've said before that I view him as a hot-tempered, imperious sort with a strong streak of messianic righteousness. If he thought he could get away with pulling a "Chavez" on Ecuador, he'd do it. Thing is, Ecuador is way different from Venezuela (maybe I'll do comparative analysis piece on this in separate posting later) and people, as I've said in other posts, are watching Correa very closely for any moves that he might try to make in that (the Chavez) direction.....

What people really want is more honest, transparent, egalitarian and representative government, and a government that produces in terms administration of honest and fair justice, administration of public services especially health and education, and they're hoping that the CA process - with Correa's leadership, if he does it right - will bring these things about.

But not at the expense of a one party, totalitarian system which is what Chavez is well on his way to achieving up there.

.... Which reminds me of another subject meriting in-depth treatment later on:

7) What will happen with or to, the political party landscape in the coming months/couple of years? I've alluded to the traditional big guys being in disarray in the run up to the CA, but haven't mentioned the fact that the non-fired politicos/parties, including the PRE (what kind of relationship have Correa and that corrupt, dangerous crazy Abdullah Bucaram, cooked up?), the RED-ID, the Socialists and MPD, some elements of the UDC, and Patchakutik plus some turncoats from the trads (calling themselves the "Bloque de Dignidad") are milling around without benefit of an operating Congress.

..... And this doesn't mention the existence of a parallel Congress made up of the fired 57 Diputados, plus the Alianza Pais (BTW, separate research question: Who financed Correa during the Presidential campaign, and who's been financing AP activities during the Consulta Popular, and even more importantly, from now on out?)

All this said (item 7) the basic question is, how will this all shake out and specifically, which parties will win and which will lose, and what price will the winners pay to win?

Anyway, some preliminary things to consider/research/discuss in the coming weeks... Whew, just doing the list is wearing.. More later, with the hope that the citizenry of this country are ultimately wiser than the political Wiseguys....

1 comment:

j_major said...

l find strange that a foreigner points out real serious subjects about the matters the CA will face when it starts, specially on economics.

l think if we put many details in the next constitution, won't last many years. the same problem had the last one (well..., all the previous constitutions as well), but we´re going in the direction of making the same mistake once more.