Poll gives Ecuador's Correa wide lead on referendum

QUITO Fri Apr 22, 2011 6:47pm EDT

Ecuador's President Rafael Correa waves during a political rally to support a referendum in Quito March 28, 2011. REUTERS/Guillermo Granja

Ecuador's President Rafael Correa waves during a political rally to support a referendum in Quito March 28, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Guillermo Granja

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QUITO (Reuters) - Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa is likely to achieve a sweeping victory in a referendum next month that calls for an overhaul of the justice system, a poll by Ecuadorean pollster Cedatos showed on Friday.

In the May 7 vote, Ecuadoreans will endorse or reject 10 proposals socialist Correa says will modernize the Andean nation but critics fear are intended to strengthen his power and curb judicial independence.

The Cedatos poll gives two reforms calling for a judicial shake-up 62.2 percent and 64.1 percent support, respectively.

The proposals call for the creation of a panel that would overhaul the judiciary and appoint top judges. The temporary panel would be replaced by a five-member council with a six-year mandate.

Correa argues the changes will allow the state to stamp out corruption and inefficiency in courts and thus help police to better fight rising crime, but his critics say his real aim is to win power over judicial appointments.

The Cedatos poll shows the whole package of 10 reforms, including new rules banning bull fighting, would be endorsed by an average of 61.7 percent of voters.

The survey indicates less support for a proposal to prohibit banks and the media from owning shares in companies outside their sectors. The government says the move is aimed at preventing conflicts of interest but some Ecuadoreans fear it is an attack on media freedoms. The proposal is backed by 51.6 percent of voters, Cedatos said.

The poll of 3,750 people was carried out on April 20 and had a margin of error of 5 percentage points.

It was published on Cedatos' website, but not by local media because Ecuadorean law forbids the publication of polls in the 20 days leading to a public vote.

(Reporting by Eduardo Garcia; editing by Todd Eastham)

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