The 1967 constitution was the first to introduce provisions for political parties. The 1979 Constitution attempts to strengthen the party-based system by giving parties state protection and financial assistance. For a party to receive state financial aid, it must have obtained at least 5 percent of the votes in elections for national and provincial deputies, councillors, and council members. In these elections, the parties are prohibited from forming alliances; each party is obliged to run its own candidates. Alliances are allowed, however, in elections for president and vice president, mayors, and prefects.
The Constitution apportions state financial aid to legally recognized parties as follows: 60 percent in equal parts to each party and the remaining 40 percent according to the votes obtained in the last national elections. Although the parties also receive contributions from their affiliates, they may not receive, directly or indirectly, financial donations from individuals or groups that have contracts with the state or from companies, institutions, or foreign states.
Article 37, which was widely debated prior to the holding of a popular referendum in June 1986, gives legally recognized parties a type of monopoly because only they can run candidates in an election. Whereas the Constitution gives any citizen the right to be elected, Article 37 prohibits a citizen from running as an independent candidate and requires candidates to be affiliated with a political party. Salgado observed that the party affiliation requirement probably strengthens the party system, but it does so by compromising the political right of any citizen to run for office.
Although Ecuadorians over eighteen years of age may join a political party, under the Law of Political Parties this right does not apply to active-duty members of the armed forces and National Police, ministers of any religious denomination, or anyone sentenced to jail for defrauding the state (at least until after a period double that of the prison sentence). The law also prohibits more than one party affiliation. The penalty of violating this law is loss of citizenship rights for one year.
The Constitution sets out the organizational requirements for a political party. It must have a party doctrine and a program of political action that are in accord with the national interests. A party must keep count of the number of its members and be organized on a national level; that is, its organization must extend to no fewer than ten provinces, including two of the three most populated provinces (which in the late 1980s were Guayas, Pichincha, and Manabí). The Law of Political Parties also establishes that the membership of a party must constitute no fewer than 1.5 percent of the registered voters in the last electoral turnout.
A grouping or political movement must seek TSE recognition as a party according to a procedure laid out in the Law of Political Parties. To participate in elections, a party must have been legally recognized six months before the holding of these elections. In the late 1980s, Ecuador had sixteen legal parties.
Any changes in the higher leadership of a party or in its statutes must be reported to the TSE within eight days. The principal leader of a party and the members of its higher leadership body serve two-year terms. The principal leader may be reelected only once, after a two-year period, for another term. When a party splits and two directorates are formed, the TSE must determine which faction is legitimate. To that end, each faction has a thirty-day period in which to present its case. The TSE then has fifteen days in which to decide on the case, and its decision is final. Other party problems generally are resolved internally and in accordance with the party's statutes and regulations. The party's national leadership or the elements in conflict may, however, submit their problem to the decision of the TSE.
According to the Law of Political Parties, the TSE may abolish a party that decides to dissolve itself, incorporates or joins with another party, does not participate in general elections in at least ten provinces, forms paramilitary organizations, or does not respect the required nonpolitical character of the active-duty armed forces and National Police. As originally formulated, the Law of Political Parties also provided that if a party failed to obtain at least 5 percent of the votes in each of two successive elections, the TSE could dissolve it by withdrawing its legal recognition. That provision was not in effect in 1988, however, having been declared unconstitutional because of a technicality; whereas the Law of Political Parties spoke of a required "electoral percentage," the Constitution refers only to an "electoral quotient."
Unless it is dissolving itself, a party being abolished by the TSE has sixty days in which to present documentation in its own defense. Notice of the abolishment of a party and the cancellation of its registration are published in the Registro Oficial del Estado and sent to the news media.
The Law of Political Parties guarantees parties the right to organize meetings, marches, and public demonstrations. A party must submit a written request to hold a public march or demonstration at least forty-eight hours in advance. The authority may reject a request only if another demonstration will be held at the same place, day, and hour, but will approve another date and hour and must act on the request within twenty-four hours. A rejection may be appealed to the TPE. Any march or public demonstration must also be authorized by the police authority in the provincial capitals, by the national commissioner (comisario nacional) in the cantons, and by the political lieutenant in the parishes. Parties do not require authorization to hold nonpublic meetings, but are obligated to inform the aforementioned authorities in advance. Counterdemonstrations are prohibited.
The Law of Political Parties also guarantees the right of parties to propagandize their programs. If, however, political propaganda or statements disseminated by news media impugn the honor or good name of someone, that individual may demand that the offender publish a retraction. If necessary, the individual may appeal to the TPE to have this demand carried out. Under the law, all means of social communication not owned by a party must provide access to all parties and may not enter into exclusive political propaganda contracts. Lastly, political proselytism in schools and colleges is prohibited, as is coercing someone to join a party, to vote for a candidate, to participate in marches or demonstrations, or to make financial contributions.
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