QUITO, Ecuador (AP) — Ecuador's president on Wednesday called a nationwide referendum that will include a question asking voters whether they want to revoke a law pushed forward by his predecessor allowing presidents to be indefinitely re-elected.
President Lenin Moreno presented two decrees to the National Electoral Council calling for a popular vote that he said is needed to restore the country's constitution, whose values he said have been compromised by "vices" within the nation's political process. The council has 15 days to formally convoke the vote and 60 days to organize it.
The move widened the divide between Moreno and ex-President Rafael Correa, a former ally who now accuses his hand-picked successor of betraying his legacy. Correa, an iron-fisted leader who served as president for a decade over three presidential terms, would be barred from office if voters should repeal the re-election law.
"It is essential to consult the public on these matters of national interest," Moreno wrote.
The National Assembly passed an amendment in 2015 lifting presidential term limits, in what critics called a shrewd political move by Correa to further consolidate power. Correa left office earlier this year and has said he would only come out of political retirement if the social gains from his so-called Citizens' Revolution were threatened.
He called the proposed referendum question asking voters to limit politicians to just one re-election an attempt to thwart his leftist movement.
"Not only would the revolution not continue, what's in the works is a true counter-revolution," he wrote in a recent blog post.
Moreno has distanced himself from his one-time political mentor since his April election, exposing corruption, courting conservative business leaders and trying to make amends with groups that Correa shunned, including the media. Polls say his approval rating has soared and point to wide public backing for the referendum.
Aside from the question on re-election, the referendum also will tackle corruption and environmental issues like oil exploration and mining. If voters approve, anyone convicted of corruption would be prohibited from participating in politics.
Vice President Jorge Glas was jailed in October on charges of accepting bribes from Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht during Correa's administration and is expected to face a criminal trial.
The referendum heightens tense relations between backers of Moreno and Correa within the Alianza Pais ruling party. Alianza Pais leaders recently announced that they were removing Moreno as the party's chief, a move the current president's allies and an electoral court consider illegal. Party leaders have called for a Dec. 3 national convention.