Ecuador's president backs indefinite re-elections, coy about his plans

QUITO Sat May 24, 2014 6:35pm EDT

Ecuador's President Rafael Correa addresses the nation with a speech to commemorate 192 years of independence from Spain at the National Assembly in Quito May 24, 2014. REUTERS/Stringer

Ecuador's President Rafael Correa addresses the nation with a speech to commemorate 192 years of independence from Spain at the National Assembly in Quito May 24, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Stringer

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QUITO (Reuters) - Ecuador's President Rafael Correa on Saturday backed a constitutional change to allow politicians to run indefinitely, potentially paving the way for the leftist himself to seek the top job again in 2017.

Correa remained coy about his future plans, stressing that a potential run depended on his party and political conditions.

"Let the Ecuadorean people decide with full freedom the continuity or change of leaders," Correa told Congress on Saturday. "We have to keep adjusting our institutions to (Ecuador's) new reality and not revert to the domination of elites."

The measure is poised to easily be approved in Congress, where Correa's Alianza Pais party has a majority.

A U.S.-trained economist, Correa was first elected in 2007 with an agenda to lift the resource-rich country out of poverty. He won a second four-year term last year.

The first Ecuadorean president in the past two decades to complete a full term in office, Correa is lauded for bringing stability to the Andean country, bolstering social services and overseeing an oil-fueled economic boom.

His critics blast him for aggressive run-ins with private media, unpredictable regulatory changes and what they say are inflated presidential powers.

They are likely to seize on this announcement as evidence Correa is seeking to create an authoritarian state.

Others leaders in Latin America, a region chiefly governed by presidential systems, have also flirted with doing away with limits to governance.

The late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, an ideological ally of Correa's, won a referendum in 2009 to remove limits on re-election.

A Colombian court in 2010 blocked former right-wing President Alvaro Uribe's bid to seek a third term in office.

(Reporting by Alexandra Valencia; Writing by Alexandra Ulmer; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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