The Ecuadorian Constitution of 2008 says in article 117 that "it is prohibited to carry out legal reforms in electoral matters during the year prior to the holding of elections."
Three days before the mid-term elections are to be held in Ecuador, the National Electoral Council (CNE) debated a project to change the mechanism for counting null votes in the election of both female and male councilmembers for the Council of Citizen Participation and Social Control (Cpccs). On Wednesday the councilmembers did not approve the change but did allow the notion to pass it to a higher instance in the Electoral Contentious Court.
In an official statement, the electoral body clarified on Wednesday, that the change "has not yet been approved" and that in the Ordinary Session #20, which is taking place this afternoon, a resolution will be announced. During the session, the arguments of the councilors were heard and the draft change was put to vote, it didn't pass by two votes against, one abstention and two votes in favor.
However, Councilmember Luis Verdesoto proposed the notion to send the proposal to the Electoral Contentious Court, which legally could reverse the decision until Sunday, March 24. "Meanwhile, the rules of the game remain the same for Sunday's elections," said Diana Atamaint, CNE President.
A necessary clarification, after local media, reported on Tuesday that the state body had already defined that each null ballot will be equivalent to three null votes instead of one, a proposal presented by Verdesoto. In case null vote would win, the law requires a new election and the same candidates cannot be on the ballot again.
However, and putting aside the date of the resolution, this change would imply an unconstitutional act on behalf of the CNE. The Ecuadorian Constitution of 2008 reads in article 117 that "it is prohibited to carry out legal reforms in electoral matters during the year prior to the holding of elections." This means that three days before the elections, the law would not allow a change to the elections’ electoral process, whichever its nature.
For this reason, the announcement has unleashed strong criticism from several legislators, users on social media and even ex-president Rafael Correa who have voiced their concerns under the hashtag #CNEesFraude, which has become the second trend on Twitter, below #PorelNulo, promoted by various political sectors of Ecuador.
A strategy that strengthened in recent days with the aim of "questioning" the legitimacy of the Cpccs and thus, press for a popular consultation to seek a redesign or elimination of the institution. A proposal that factions of the Ecuadorian right-wing are pressing for, and even to which the current president of transitory Cpccs, Julio Cesar Trujillo has backed.
The transitory Cpccs was approved during the popular consultation on Feb. 4, 2018, and it was the National Assembly of Ecuador that appointed the seven main councilmembers, whose action during this past year has been to remove all public officials considered as "correistas".
"They made the rules and now, as they do not agree with them, they change them, what is typical of phonies. But it is much worse because by validating each null vote as three, they are creating first and second voters, going against citizens' rights since the vote of people who vote null will be worth three," said Kintto Lucas, former Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ecuador and political analyst.
The head of the observation mission of the Organization of American States (OAS), Kevin Casas, reiterated today, Wednesday, March 20, 2019, that "as soon as possible" it must be decided how the null votes for the election will be counted.