In Ecuador, the military junta says it is speeding up a national census so that the country's first elections since 1968 can be held next year.
In Ecuador, the military junta says it is speeding up a national census so that the country's first elections since 1968 can be held next year. But according to local observers there's still considerable scepticism over the intentions of the military authorities, who put back the elections by nine months earlier this year.
SYNOPSIS: The official reason given for delaying the election was the need to prepare an electoral register. But it's widely believed that the three-man junta wanted more time to consider how to block the candidacy of former Presidential contender Asaad Bucaram, who could well get 40 percent of the vote. In 1972 the military regime pre-empted elections when it seemed they would be won by Bucaram, who is mistrusted by the right wing.
But now the junta, which suspended all political activity in 1974, says it wants the census completed within ten months so the elections can go ahead. So far nearly two million voters out of a total population of around seven million have been issued with registration cards and the census has been extended to include rural areas, where many people are illiterate. The government says it is taking 'urgent measures' to finish the survey on time.
There are still doubts about the form the elections will take, if indeed they are held at all. A referendum proposed at one point would have given voters the option of banning candidates with foreign parents. This would have excluded Bucaram, whose family emigrated from Lebanon, but the proposal was later dropped. It remains to be seen whether the military will decide to hold on to power or allow the elections to go ahead with Bucaram as the likely winner.