[JURIST] A overwhelming majority of referendum voters in Ecuador [JURIST news archive] Sunday appear to have approved the convening of a constitutional assembly to rewrite that nation's constitution [text, in Spanish], according to a Cedatos-Gallup exit poll. A plan initiated by President Rafael Correa [official website, in Spanish; BBC profile] to limit the power of an allegedly corrupt Congress [official government website] is estimated to have passed with 78.1% of the vote, with polls set to close at 2200 GMT. The win would create a constitutional assembly charged with instituting reforms to restrain powerful political parties [JURIST report], increase government accountability, and hold regional, rather than national, elections. Critics fear that Correa will use the assembly to expand presidential power. Correa has said he would consider resigning if the reforms did not pass by a convincing majority. If passed, an election for members of the assembly will likely be held in September. Reuters has more.
The referendum was approved by Congress [JURIST report] in February. Controversy broke out when Correa and the unicameral Congress submitted differing versions of a referendum; the Supreme Electoral Tribunal [official website, in Spanish] accepted Correa's version, which permitted the constitutional assembly to retroactively fire legislators. In turn, 57 legislators voted to dismiss four of the tribunal members, prompting the tribunal to fire the 57 for illegally interfering with their decision. A rejected appeal [JURIST report] led to violence between the fired lawmakers and police. Earlier this month Ecuador's Constitutional Tribunal [official website, in Spanish] upheld the decision [JURIST report] to dismiss the lawmakers.