Ecuador’s Congress voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to grant President Rafael Correa a monthlong leave of absence while he campaigns to be the first Ecuadorean leader in more than a century to hold the presidency for more than a single term. The South American nation limited its presidents to single terms in the 20th century until the charter was changed in 2008 to allow re-election, a move that benefited the populist Correa. Correa said handing his job over to Vice President Lenin Moreno starting Jan. 15 shows how far he’s willing to go to support democracy and avoid abusing his presidential powers ahead of the Feb. 17 vote. “I don’t have to do it, but I prefer to avoid any suspicion,” Correa told Congress.
His political opponents and analysts consulted by The Associated Press before Wednesday’s vote disagreed. They said Correa will still be in charge and able to benefit from all manner of state resources.
Correa’s leave of absence “doesn’t change a thing,” opposition assemblywoman Diana Atamaint said. “The official publicity will continue. Correa can use state resources and there will be no balance with respect to other political parties,” she predicted.
Ecuadorean political scientist Jorge Leon said Correa will still be president, even if his No. 2 is nominally in charge. “He can use his security forces, transportation and other state resources because he remains in his role, and all the government infrastructure still holds,” Leon said. “A leave gives him more freedom of movement, because he can dedicate all his time to being a candidate, show that he can win without being in the presidency and support his political party. This is an advantage.”