Under the 1979 Constitution, Ecuador is a democratic and unitary state with a republican, presidential, elective, and representative government. Although the presidency is mainly a political office, it and the rest of the executive branch are responsible for the governmental process. Congress is responsible for the legislative process. The Supreme Court of Justice, which supervises the Superior Courts, is, along with other judicial organs, responsible for serving justice. Relations between the executive and legislative branches are based on the principle of the separation of powers, although there are several points of contact. In the 1980s, there also have been numerous points of friction between the executive and legislative branches, particularly during the Febres Cordero administration. As political scientist David Corkill observed in 1985, "Politics became locked in a familiar cycle of executive-legislative conflict, protracted political deadlock, and military intervention to break the impasse."
The executive branch of government consists of the president, the vice president, the ministers of state and their subordinate officials, and Conade. The office of the president is located in the National Palace (Palacio Nacional) in Quito, and the offices of the vice president and ministers at various other locations in the capital. The president serves a four-year term and may not run for reelection.
To be president, one must be Ecuadorian by birth, in full possession of the rights of citizenship, and at least thirty-five years of age at the time of the election. Election requires an absolute majority of the votes cast by direct, universal, and secret ballot. A candidate may not be a current or former president, a spouse or relative of an incumbent president, vice president in the term immediately prior to the election, a minister of state at the time of the election, a member of the Public Forces (composed of the armed forces and National Police) within six months prior to the election, a minister of any religious denomination, a government contractor, or a legal representative of a foreign company.
The president's duties and powers include the following: to comply with and enforce the Constitution, laws, decrees, and international conventions; to approve, promulgate, carry out, or challenge the laws enacted by Congress or the PCL; to maintain domestic order and national security; to freely appoint and remove ministers, chiefs of diplomatic missions, governors, and other public officials, as provided by law (the president sends a list of three candidates for high-level state positions to Congress, which selects one); to determine foreign policy and direct international relations; to enter into treaties and other international agreements, and to ratify treaties and agreements after their approval by Congress; to contract loans; to serve as commander in chief of the Public Forces; to appoint, confer promotions on, or remove officials of the Public Forces; to mobilize or demobilize the Public Forces and assume command of them in wartime, and to approve their organization; to declare a state of national emergency and to assume emergency powers as needed in times of crisis; to submit an annual report to Congress on the general state of the government and the republic; and to call a popular referendum on important questions.
The president may declare a state of emergency in general situations involving imminent foreign aggression, international war, or serious internal strife or catastrophe. A state of emergency empowers the president to decree the anticipated collection of taxes; to invest fiscal funds designated for other areas (with the exception of health and social services) in the defense of the state or the solution of a catastrophe, but not in the case of an internal conflict; to move the seat of the government; to close or open ports; to censor the media; to suspend observance of constitutional guarantees, with the exception of such basic human rights as the right to life, personal integrity, and freedom from expatriation or confinement (except under certain conditions); and to declare a security zone in the national territory. In order to prevent arbitrary presidential declarations, Congress or the TGC may revoke the state of emergency at any time if the circumstances justify such action.
The president has important legislative powers as well. The principle of "legislative coparticipation" allows the chief executive to participate in the formation as well as the execution and application of laws. The president may present before Congress or the PCL any proposed law, including constitutional amendments. Congress or the PCL must invite the head of state or a representative to participate, without voting rights, in the discussions of the proposed law. Within fifteen days, Congress or the PCL must approve, amend, or reject urgent presidential proposals on the economy. In the absence of any congressional action, the president may promulgate any such proposal as a decreelaw , which the Congress may overrule or amend. Any bill approved by Congress or the PCL must be submitted to the president, who has ten days to approve or to object partially or totally to it. The legislature may override a presidential veto by a two-thirds majority. The chief executive, once signing a bill into law, must promulgate it by publishing it in the Registro Oficial del Estado (Official Register of the State) and issue regulations within ninety days.
The president may call Congress into extraordinary session to consider exclusively matters put before it by the head of state. In practice, however, these sessions have not always worked to the president's advantage. For example, although President Febres Cordero convoked extraordinary sessions of Congress in March and April 1985, the legislature suspended the first one after rejecting a presidential bill to increase the monthly minimum wage by 30 percent, and the president of Congress unilaterally, and some claimed illegally, suspended the second session without completing its agenda. Although the Constitution does not specifically give Congress the power to suspend an extraordinary session called by the president, the legislative body may interpret the charter and the laws as it sees fit.
The presidency may be declared vacant following the incumbent's death, resignation, physical or mental incapacitation, or removal from office by the legislature for having been absent from Quito for thirty consecutive days or for having left the country without congressional authorization. Under these circumstances, the Constitution provides for subrogation or substitution of the president. The order of presidential subrogation is the vice president, the president of Congress, and the president of the CSJ. The presidential order of subrogation also serves for the temporary replacement of the vice president. In the definitive absence of the vice president, Congress may designate a successor by an absolute majority.
The 1979 Constitution establishes that the vice president be elected simultaneously with the president on the same party slate by an absolute majority, and meet the same requirements and restrictions. The vice president also serves as president of Conade, which plans the various policies of the state.
The ministers of state, who comprise the cabinet, discharge the affairs of state and represent the president in matters relating to their respective ministries. To be a minister, one must be Ecuadorian by birth, in full possession of the rights of citizenship, and at least thirty years of age. In 1989 the Borja cabinet had twelve ministers and also included two secretaries of state--the secretary general of administration and the secretary general for public information--with ministerial rank. All ministries also had deputy ministers, who were, with the usual exception of the deputy minister of defense, civilians. In addition, the president supervised more than 700 autonomous agencies, including the National Planning Board.
Conade determines the general economic and social policies of the state; prepares development plans for presidential approval; and determines the general economic and social policies of the state. The eleven-member Conade consists of the vice president, four ministers of state appointed by the president, the president of the Monetary Board, and one representative each of Congress, the mayors (alcaldes), and provincial prefects (prefectos provinciales), organized labor, the Commercial Associations (Cámaras de Producción), and the polytechnical universities and schools. In the event of a tie, the matter is resolved by the vote of whoever is presiding over the meeting. Once approved by the president, the policies adopted by Conade must be implemented by the appropriate ministers and by government agencies.
Under a restructuring directive issued by Vice President Luis Parodi in January 1990, Conade created the offices of undersecretaries of Economic Planning and Decentralized Planning and Social Development. In addition, seven general directorates were established: Short-Range Planning, Medium- and Long-Range Planning, Decentralized Planning, the Costa Social Development, Technical and Financial Cooperation, and Administration. The changes resulted from a desire to emphasize the role of planning as a tool of the government, thus necessitating modernization and institutional consolidation of the council.
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