Lasso-ing the opposition

To save the economy, Ecuador’s president wants to bypass congress.

Ecuador has a history of presidents largely ignoring congress and ruling by executive decree when it comes to issues perceived as nationally important. For current president Guillermo Lasso, that issue is the economy. GDP growth is forecast to average 1.4% per year until 2025, one of the weakest rates of growth in the country’s recent history.

A senior adviser to the boards of several of Ecuador’s largest public entities explained, “In the administrative law of Ecuador, executive decrees have always governed, it is not an unusual practice, since the same situation arose both in the government of Rafael Correa and in that of previous leaders.”

“In the administrative law of Ecuador, executive decrees have always governed, it is not an unusual practice.”

Board advisor to several of Ecuador’s largest public entities

Indeed, the statute that governs the executive function is born from an executive decree, not a precedent that Ecuador would be well advised to follow. President Lasso however seems intent on empowering the executive at all costs – congressional cries of unconstitutionality appear unlikely.

A planned referendum on reform of state institutions could stir controversy, however. A lawyer with decades of experience advising political leaders on constitutional issues explained, “Lasso is currently enjoying relatively high levels of popularity due in large part to what is perceived as effective management of the Covid pandemic and vaccination system which was effective. He now appears to be taking advantage of that popularity to push through reforms. Significantly a new reform will allow the president to immediately dissolve the national assembly if he feels they are interrupting his reform agenda through boycotts or other persistent interruptions to his ability to govern.”

“Lasso is currently enjoying relatively high levels of popularity […]. He now appears to be taking advantage of that popularity to push through reforms.”

Experienced constitutional lawyer, Ecuador

“Lasso, within the scope of his powers, has promoted important investment packages. He did an international event that I understand had a lot of support, it’s called Ecuador Investment where he presented various investment policies to the country,” added the lawyer.

Indeed, Ecuador has become one of Latin America’s more stable investment destinations in recent years. What the country lacks is an adequate legal framework that the Assembly must have the responsibility to approve, such as the investment law. It would also do well to change its current labour policy which can be hostile to investment to improve the political climate. That depends on a good relationship between the president and parliament.

Smoother political relations may be hard given current dynamics. At present all the legislative blocs want the head of Assembly President Guadalupe Llori, except the government bloc. So the president is going to have to give in to that position and let the vice president take over to have a little more dialogue and a little more governability. Not doing so will make Lasso’s dreams of legislative reforms immeasurably more difficult to implement.

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