Guillermo Lasso, the president of Ecuador, has ended the impeachment process against him by dissolving the National Assembly, which is led by the opposition and had accused him of embezzlement.
According to the South American nation's constitution, the right-wing president, who has denied any wrongdoing, can rule by decree for a maximum of six months, a provision which holds significance in terms of executive power and decision-making.
It allows for a transition period until new elections are held, and provides a temporary mechanism for governing the country while the legislative branch is reconstituted through the electoral process. The National Electoral Council now has seven days to announce the dates for the 90-day presidential and legislative elections.
The terms of Lasso and the politicians he ousted, which were scheduled to end in May 2025, will be completed by those elected. Lasso accused the National Assembly of concentrating "on destabilising the government" in a televised message and described his move as "democratic", saying it would give “people the power to decide their future in the next elections”.
However, when a president rules by decree, it means they can issue executive orders and make policy decisions without requiring approval or input from the legislature, granting the president expanded powers for a limited period.
Why was Lasso under fire?
Politicians had accused Lasso of failing to step in to sever a contract between the for-profit Amazonas Tankers and the state-owned Flota Petrolera Ecuatoriana oil transport company.
The president disputes the accusation that he knew the contract was riddled with irregularities and would cause the state to suffer millions of dollars in losses.
The 137-member National Assembly's strong opposition has clashed with Lasso, a former banker, since he was elected in 2021. On Tuesday (16 May), he defended himself in front of Congress, stating that there was no evidence of any wrongdoing.
Who is Guillermo Lasso?
Before entering into politics, Lasso was a prominent businessman and held various high-ranking positions in the banking and finance sector. He served as the CEO and President of Banco de Guayaquil, one of Ecuador's largest private banks, from 1994 to 2012.
Under his leadership, the bank expanded its operations and became one of the country's most successful financial institutions. In 2012, he founded the right-wing Creating Opportunities party (CREO), before succeeding Lenín Moreno as the country's president after winning the 2021 presidential elections
CREO advocates for free-market economics, limited government intervention, individual liberties, and a pro-business approach, and positions itself as an alternative to the socialist and populist policies that have been prevalent in Ecuadorian politics in recent years.
During its formation, CREO aimed to build a broad coalition of centre-right and conservative forces in Ecuador. It has sought to attract support from various sectors, including business leaders, professionals and young entrepreneurs who align with its pro-market and pro-growth agenda.
But CREO has been criticised by opposition parties and groups which say the party prioritises the interests of the business elite over those of the general population. Critics argue that these policies may exacerbate income inequality and neglect the needs of marginalised communities.
The party has also faced opposition from indigenous groups that argue its policies do not adequately address the historical marginalisation and rights of indigenous peoples and other vulnerable populations, expressing concerns about the potential negative impacts of CREO's economic agenda on social programs, public services and indigenous land rights.