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Preliminary Report on the Referendum in Ecuador by the Electoral Experts Mission of the OAS

  February 5, 2018

The full Report is available here.

The Electoral Experts Mission of the Organization of American States (OAS), headed by Dr. Leonardo Valdés Zurita, former President of the Federal Electoral Institute of Mexico, congratulates the citizens of Ecuador on a day in which they demonstrated their civic commitment through their active and peaceful participation in the referendum.

The Mission comprised nine experts, who examined issues relating to electoral organization and technology, campaign financing, electoral justice, and direct democracy. In order to develop a substantive analysis of the entire referendum process including the phrasing of the questions, the pre-referendum stage, and the actual voting day, the experts met with electoral and government authorities, representatives of the registered YES and NO campaigns, civil society actors and academics.

On Sunday, February 4, 13,026,598 Ecuadorians were asked to vote on amendments relating to the political disqualification of persons convicted of acts of corruption, the elimination of indefinite re-election, the restructuring of the Citizen Participation and Social Oversight Council (Consejo de Participación Ciudadana y Control Social), the inapplicability of the statute of limitations (nonprescription) on sexual crimes against children and adolescents, the banning of metal mining [in certain areas], the repeal of the "Capital Gains Act," and the expansion of the intangible zone and reduction of the oil exploitation area in the Yasuní National Park.

These issues were put to the popular vote in five questions in the form of a referendum (referéndum) and two questions via a community opinion poll (consulta popular). This initiative of the President draws on an Ecuadorian tradition of consulting citizens. Ten direct democracy exercises of this kind have been conducted since the transition to democracy. The Mission notes that, in a context of polarization and despite the diversity of the issues at stake, the campaign was organized around two blocks of support for "YES" or "No".

Referendum Day
On voting day, the mission’s experts witnessed the opening of polling stations in Pichincha and were present at the CNE (National Electoral Council's) Monitoring Center. From there they ascertained that both the delivery of referendum materials and the set-up and opening of the polling stations, proceeded without any major delays, nationwide.

Even though isolated incidents of violence had been reported in the days prior to the referendum, the Mission ascertained through the official national monitoring reports that referendum day went by peacefully and with a high citizen participation rate (of over 80%) according to the CNE's rapid vote count.

Shortly before 6:00 p.m., when trying to access the link for consulting the referendum results on the CNE website the Mission received the message "Access Denied," meaning that the outcomes were not yet available to the public. That situation triggered confusion among both ordinary citizens and political actors. The Mission ascertained that data on the tally sheets being processed were available online as of about 6:30 p.m.

At 8:00 p.m., as stipulated in the rules, the Plenary of the National Electoral Council announced the outcome of the Rapid Count with 88.9% of the votes counted and with a margin of error of 0.7%. In addition, as regards the processing of the tally sheets, 95.43% was received before midnight on Sunday. The Mission welcomes the speed with which this information was made available to citizens, which enhanced the transparency and certainty of the referendum process.

Findings and Recommendations


The full Report is available here.

Reference: S-002/18