Ecuadorian President Lasso dissolves National Assembly amid impeachment trial
According to the constitution, Lasso will remain in office and will rule by decree until the country’s electoral court sets a date for new presidential elections within seven days
May 18, 2023 7:01am
Updated: May 18, 2023 7:01am
Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso dissolved the country’s National Assembly by decree on Wednesday, amid an impeachment trial in which he is being accused of knowing about an embezzlement scheme involving a state-owned company.
A majority of assembly members backed a resolution seeking Lasso’s impeachment for allegedly actively disregarding the embezzlement scheme between the state-owned oil transport company Flota Petrolera Ecuatoriana and the private company Amazonas Tankers.
Lasso’s impeachment hearing began on Tuesday, during which he claimed he was not guilty. The president claims the contract between the two companies was completed years before he took office.
Instead, Lasso, who took office in 2021, claims that the impeachment trial is politically motivated and is a means for his opponents to get rid of him and “destabilize the government.” Because of this, Lasso invoked a special constitutional clause. Known as “muerte cruzada” or “two-way death,” the clause allows Lasso to dissolve the legislature and end his presidency at the same time. This is the first time the measure has been used since it was introduced in 2008.
"This is a democratic decision, not only because it is constitutional, but because it returns the power to the Ecuadorean people ... to decide their future in the next elections," Lasso said in a video broadcast.
According to the constitution, Lasso will remain in office and will rule by decree until the country’s electoral court sets a date for new presidential elections within seven days. The elections then have to take place within the next 90 days, said the electoral court’s president Diana Ataimaint.
Opposition politicians and members of the assembly presented a motion to the country’s top court to block the dissolution, with some of the opposition groups calling the move “dictatorial.”
"We demand the Constitutional Court act, they are the guarantors of the constitution, they are the ones that have to resolve (the matter)," said Virgilio Saquicela, former president of the National Assembly who was reelected last week to the same post.
Police and military in riot gear stood outside the National Assembly building in the capital of Quito, bracing for probable demonstrations.
"The country won't accept any attempt to alter the constitutional order through violence," said Ecuador’s head of the armed forces Nelson Proaño after the measure was announced.