Ecuadorians overwhelmingly voted in favor of keeping term limits for presidents on Sunday, preventing leftist former head of government Rafael Correa from holding the top spot ever again.
The Ecuadorian referendum also asked voters whether they supported banning politicians convicted of corruption from holding office again and whether they supported several environmental regulations to prevent foreign corporations from exploiting federally protected territory.
Concerns of the return of corrupt former presidents are high on the continent given the current state of the 2018 Brazilian presidential race, currently led by a former president sentenced to 12 years in prison for corruption. Among his rivals for the top spot is a former president who was impeached out of office for corruption.
Ecuador approved the repeal of term limits under Correa in 2008.
While current President Lenin Moreno was elected as a leftist member of Correa’s party, he has broken with Correa’s most extreme policies and supported the term limits. Correa left their party, National Alliance (AP), and founded his own group shortly after Moreno began undoing Correa’s alliances with far-left governments like Venezuela and China.
At press time, Ecuador’s National Election Commission (CNE) has tallied nearly 90 percent of the vote, according to Spanish newspaper El País. 67.5 percent of voters supported term limits for politicians. 75 percent of eligible voters participated.
The CNE has not yet published the full results of the referendum. Ecuadorians voted on seven other questions, including the exclusion of “all those convicted of acts of corruption from the political life of the nation” and the removal of statutes of limitation on any “sexual crimes against girls, boys, or adolescents.” Several questions regarding the protection of historically conserved lands against mining and other resource development and the repeal of a Correa-era law that imposes a 75 percent tax on the profits gained from sales of real estate.
The term limits question was far and away the most popularly debated, however. Correa toured the country campaigning against the term limits, coming face to face with angry Ecuadorians who pelted his vehicle with what he claimed was “rocks, sticks, eggs.” Images showed his official vehicle covered in garbage at one campaign stop.
President Moreno took to Twitter last night to celebrate the end of an era in which politicians could run for the same top offices indefinitely.
“Today, democracy has triumphed in a decisive way with the ‘yes’ [vote],” he wrote. “Today, we all manifested ourselves loud and clear, freely and democratically, about the future we want for our children. A ‘yes’ victory is a victory for the nation.”
Hoy ha triunfado la democracia de manera contundente con el Sí. Hoy, todos nosotros manifestamos de manera clara y contundente, libre y democráticamente, sobre el futuro que queremos para nuestros hijos. La victoria del Sí, es la victoria del país. #EcuadorDijoSí
— Lenín Moreno (@Lenin) February 5, 2018
He also took a veiled shot at former ally Correa: “Today it is time for young leaders. Political parties: renovate yourselves!” he wrote. “The people said Yes. The politicians who desired to eternalize themselves [in office] will never return.”
Hoy es el tiempo de los jóvenes líderes. Partidos políticos: ¡A renovarse! El pueblo dijo Sí. Los políticos que ansiaban eternizarse no volverán nunca más. #EcuadorDijoSí
— Lenín Moreno (@Lenin) February 5, 2018
Correa, who had returned from his new home Belgium to campaign for the “no” vote, invoked late dictator Hugo Chávez in his campaign night message.
“On February 4, 1992, after his failed rebellion against the corrupt government of Carlos Andrés Pérez, the young official Hugo Chávez said, ‘the objectives have not been achieved FOR NOW,’” Correa wrote. “The rest is history. 26 years later, we say the same, and the rest will also be history.”
El 4 de feb. de 1992, después de su fallida rebelión contra el Gobierno corrupto de Carlos Andrés Pérez, el joven oficial Hugo Chávez decía: “no se han alcanzado los objetivos POR AHORA”. El resto es historia.
26 años después decimos lo mismo, y el resto también será historia.
— Rafael Correa (@MashiRafael) February 5, 2018
Correa also blamed the defeat of his suspected aspirations to become president again as “treason” and the “yes” campaign as “the most unequal campaign in modern history.”
Despite only returning to Ecuador to campaign for the “no” vote, Correa remained in his home country on Monday, asked to testify before a court on a series of unfavorable oil deals that his government signed with Chinese corporations. Since Moreno took office, prosecutors have found evidence that Ecuador, an OPEC nation, had lost millions in oil revenue during the Correa era by selling China cheap oil in exchange for extending their credit line.