Ecuador's top court paves the way for early national elections

Ecuador's President Guillermo Lasso addresses the nation after he dissolved the National Assembly, in Quito
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By Alexandra Valencia

QUITO (Reuters) -Ecuador's Constitutional Court on Thursday paved the way for early legislative and presidential elections, rejecting a series of cases brought by opposition politicians to block President Guillermo Lasso's decision to dissolve the National Assembly.

Members of opposition parties, along with social organizations, had presented six separate cases to the court, asking it to declare Lasso's decision to dissolve the National Assembly by decree unconstitutional.

Lasso on Wednesday invoked the constitution's "two-way death" provision, which allows the president to call early elections under certain circumstances, including if actions by the legislature are blocking the functioning of government.

The embattled leader, who faced an impeachment attempt by opposition politicians, cited Ecuador's serious political crisis and domestic turmoil as reasons for making the move.

"The Constitutional Court has no jurisdiction to rule on the verification and motivation of the cause of the serious political crisis and internal commotion invoked by the president," the court said in a statement.

Earlier on Thursday, Ecuador's electoral court said elections brought forward from 2025 could take place on Aug. 20.

The head of the electoral council, Diana Atamaint, said that following the Constitutional Court's ruling that no one could now obstruct the elections.

If there is a run-off election for president, it could be held on Oct. 15, Atamaint said.

Lasso had faced an impeachment attempt by opposition politicians over accusations he disregarded warnings of embezzlement related to a contract at state-owned oil transportation company Flopec. He has denied the accusations.

Lasso will remain in office and govern by decree until his successor and a new legislature are elected, according to the constitution.

Before the Constitutional Court's decision, lawmakers of the dissolved National Assembly said they would respect the court's decision, even if it upholds the president's actions.

Those elected to power in the early elections in August - including lawmakers and the president - would only serve until regularly scheduled elections are held in 2025.

(Reporting by Alexandra Valencia; Writing by Anthony Esposito and Oliver Griffin; Editing by Nick Macfie and Tom Hogue)