The Electoral Process
Under the 1987 Law of Elections, all citizens have the right to
vote or be elected, except active-duty members of the Public Forces
and anyone whose citizenship rights have been suspended. Electoral
registrars (padrones electorales) determine citizens'
qualifications to vote. The franchise is obligatory for those
entitled to vote, with the exception of illiterates, persons over
seventy-five years of age, those certified as sick or physically
disabled, individuals who suffered a domestic calamity on election
day or from one to eight days before, and citizens who are absent
from the country or who arrived on the day of the election.
The 1979 Constitution establishes several innovations in the
system for designating the president and vice president. Whereas
previously they were elected by a plurality, the Constitution
requires that they be elected by an absolute majority of votes.
This usually requires a second electoral round between the two
leading candidates. The three organs responsible for overseeing the
electoral process, with the aid of the Public Forces, are the TSE
(Supreme Electoral Tribunal), TPEs (Provincial Electoral
Tribunals), and the Vote Receiving Committees (Juntas Receptoras
As the highest of these bodies, the TSE is responsible for
appointing and supervising TPE members, overseeing the electoral
registrars, convoking elections and the entities that form the
electoral colleges, counting electoral votes, resolving appeals of
rulings made by the TPEs, and issuing regulations governing the
political parties. The TSE must convoke elections at least 120 days
in advance of the casting of ballots. If this deadline is missed by
more than forty-eight hours, the TGC may convoke the elections or
a popular referendum and replace the TSE members with their
substitutes, although in 1989 the constitutionality of this
arrangement remained an issue. The TSE must resolve within ten days
appeals raised about TPE decisions not to register candidates, to
nullify votes, to invalidate or annul the vote counting, or to
impose penalties for electoral infractions. The TSE also resolves
electoral complaints made against civil authorities.
The TPEs are formed by the TSE in each province. The seven TPE
members, who serve two years, represent the various political
parties. TPE members direct and oversee the electoral process in
their own jurisdiction and see that the orders of the TSE are
carried out. The TPEs also appoint the members of the JRVs, conduct
vote counting in their jurisdiction in a popular referendum or in
elections for mayor, and resolve complaints by citizens and
political parties over electoral irregularities.
The JRVs receive ballots at a public polling place on the
election days. For each election, the TPEs designate a number of
JRVs in accordance with the electoral registrars. The JRVs each
have three principal members, three substitutes, and a secretary,
all of whom are selected by their respective electoral registrar.
The various political parties must be represented in the JRVs.
Parties submit suggested candidates to the TPE at least sixty days
before elections. The principal powers and duties of the JRVs are
to provide each citizen with ballots and later a certificate of
having voted; to conduct partial vote counting immediately after
the polls have closed; to determine the number of valid, blank, or
null votes; and to remit the ballots to the TPEs.
Only legally recognized political parties may declare
candidates and register them. Registration must be completed ninety
days before the date of the elections. A citizen may not be a
candidate in a national and provincial election simultaneously. The
president and vice president of the republic, mayors, presidents of
municipal councils, provincial prefects, and most of the
councillors, council members, and national and provincial deputies
are elected in the first electoral round every four years. The
second electoral round is held two years after the first round.
Provincial deputies, whose term lasts two years, and some
replacements for councillors and council members are elected at
The Constitution provides for a popular consultation
(consulta popular), which the Law of Elections refers to
more specifically as a plebiscite (generally held as a vote of
confidence on an action of a government) or a referendum (generally
held to approve the text of a law). Either the executive or the
legislative branch of government may call on the electorate to
resolve a divisive issue, although the former has greater
prerogatives to hold a popular consultation.
The decision adopted by a popular consultation is final. Febres
Cordero became embroiled in a constitutional row in early 1986 when
he formally called for an election-day plebiscite on whether
independent candidates should be allowed to run for elective
office. The opposition, believing that the proposed reform was
designed to concentrate political and economic power in the
presidency, contended that Febres Cordero's action violated Article
78, which allows the president to call plebiscites on "issues of
national transcendence," but not on constitutional amendments. The
opposition also claimed that Febres Cordero violated a provision
giving the president recourse to a plebiscite only if Congress
votes against a constitutional reform proposed by the executive.
Although Febres Cordero had his way and the plebiscite on the
constitutional amendment was held in June 1986, he lost the vote by
a margin of 58 to 26 percent.
Data as of 1989