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Ecuador’s political situation today is deeply rooted in the country’s tumultuous history. The Republic of Ecuador’s political system is a representative democracy. The Government is divided into three branches: executive, legislative, and judicial. There is also an autonomous electoral agency called the Tribunal Supremo Electoral. Ecuador is separated into 24 provinces each of which is further divided into administrative cantones and parroquias.
In 2008, President Rafael Correa dissolved the Congress and convened a special constitutional assembly, which wrote a new Ecuadorian Constitution. The proposed constitution went to referendum in September of 2008, and was approved by a wide margin.
The President of the Republic presides over the executive branch and represents the State. He is elected for a 4-year term by popular vote – one ballot for President and Vice-President. The President determines the number and functions of the ministries that comprise the executive branch and appoints the ministers of each bureau that he creates. He is also the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. The president as of January 15, 2007 is Rafael Vicente Correa Delgado.
Central Bank Building, Quito.
Ecuador’s unicameral Congress passes laws, levies taxes, and approves International Treaties and an annual budget proposed by the executive branch. Congressmen are elected during multi-party elections and represent one of Ecuador’s 21 provinces.
The President of the Congress, which had previously been elected by Congress as a whole, according to the new Constitution, will be chosen by the Party that received the highest percentage of the national vote. The President of Congress ranks after the President and Vice-President of the Republic, and essentially has the same powers and responsibilities as the Speaker of the House and Leader of the Senate majority in the United States.
The judicial system is comprised of administrative courts, trial courts, appellate or Provincial Superior Courts and a Supreme Court. The supreme judicial power is vested in the Supreme Court, which has 30 Justices divided among ten chambers of three Justices each. Supreme Justices are elected for life terms.
The people of Ecuador directly elect the nation’s President and Congressmen. Voting is a constitutional right for all Ecuadorian citizens and is compulsory for literate Ecuadorians between the ages of 18 and 65 years old residing in Ecuador. Voting is optional for the illiterate and for senior citizens over the age of 65. Also, active members of the military are not permitted to vote.
Elections are organized and supervised by the Tribunal Supremo Electoral. The Tribunal is an agency independent of the government and is vested with special enforcement powers. The Tribunal has the final word on all electoral matters. Observers of political parties and international organizations may be present during vote counting. In Presidential elections, if no candidate achieves a majority, the Constitution provides for a second round run-off between the two top candidates.
Ecuador’s economy depends heavily on petroleum production and exports, along with exports of agricultural commodities and seafood. According to the Central Bank of Ecuador, the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) reached nearly USD 129.1 billion in 2011. The state oil industry makes up almost 20% of GDP, constitutes over 50% of total exports, and provides about 40% of government revenue. Agriculture contributes 6.5% of GDP. Ecuador’s major agricultural and seafood exports are bananas, flowers, cocoa, coffee, shrimp and tuna. In recent years industry has become increasingly important to Ecuador’s economy, though it still lags behind commodities in importance.
In the 1990s, Ecuador committed itself to addressing remaining obstacles to trade and a functional free market economy. An unsustainable fiscal deficit and all the associated problems have made it difficult for the country to achieve any meaningful change to date, though it seems to be moving in the right direction: in 1995 Ecuador acceded to the World Trade Organization; in 1998 the government passed comprehensive legislation to protect intellectual property rights and canceled subsidies on electricity, cooking gas, and fuel; and in 2000, to help stabilize the economy, Ecuador adopted the US dollar as its national currency – a plan known as dollarization. In 2008, Ecuador abandoned payments on foreign loans, in order to meet the nation’s social needs.