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Ecuador electoral court dismisses lawmakers in constitutional reform dispute

[JURIST] Police surrounded the Congress of Ecuador [official website] on Thursday following a decision by the country's highest electoral court to dismiss 57 of its 100 lawmakers. In a questionable exercise of authority, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal [official website] ruled that the congressmen had illegally interfered with a referendum pushed by President Rafael Correa [official website, in Spanish; BBC profile] on whether to draft a new constitution [text, in Spanish]. In February, the Congress voted to hold a referendum [JURIST report] on April 15 on whether to elect a constitutional assembly to rewrite the constitution. Last week, the Congress and Correa submitted different versions of the referendum to the court; the court approved Correa's version. In response, the 57 Congressmen voted to impeach four members of the court, including its president, Jorge Acosta Cisneros.

Correa became the eighth president [JURIST report] of Ecuador [JURIST news archive] in ten years on January 15, promising to overhaul the nation's economy to fight poverty. A self-described member of the "Christian left," Correa has characterized the unicameral congress as a "sewer of corruption" and has expressed admiration for the policies of Venezuela's Hugo Chavez [JURIST news archive]. Correa has said he supports the electoral tribunal's decision, but Congressional President Jorge Cevallos attacked it as having "no legal basis." AP has more. Reuters has local coverage.

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