Heinz G.M.
Heinz G.M. PARLIAMENTARISM IN MODERN ECUADOR // Universum: общественные науки : электрон. научн. журн. 2024. 1(104). URL: (дата обращения: 16.07.2024).
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DOI - 10.32743/UniSoc.2024.104.1.16735



The present work is focused on addressing the essence of parliamentarism, from the theory of political sciences, and as a case study the Republic of Ecuador is examined. The period of time in the delimitation of the work dates from the episode called “Return to democracy” in 1979 until the year 2021. In the conclusion of the study, a brief analysis of the development perspective of modern parliamentarism in Ecuador is carried out.


Настоящая работа сосредоточена на рассмотрении сущности парламентаризма с точки зрения теории политических наук, и в качестве примера рассматривается Республика Эквадор. Период времени, обозначенный в работе, датируется эпизодом под названием “Возвращение к демократии” в 1979 году до 2021 года. В заключении исследования проводится краткий анализ перспектив развития современного парламентаризма в Эквадоре.


Keywords: Parliament, National Assembly, National Congress, National House of Representatives, Parliamentarism, Democracy, Ecuador, Latin America.

Ключевые слова: Парламент, Национальное собрание, Национальный конгресс, Национальная палата представителей, парламентаризм, демократия, Эквадор, Латинская Америка.


1.1 Parliamentarism as a category of political science.

In order to analyze parliamentarism as a category of political science, it is necessary to establish the definition of parliamentarism, for which different positions of authors who have studied the phenomenon will be analyzed.

For years, parliamentarism has been the focus of social science researchers who have analyzed its origins, essence, development and importance in the legitimacy of governments for the stability of political systems. According to Kerimov [7, p. 22] "depending on the specificity of the development of society in the spatio-temporal dimension, in scientific researches devoted to the problems of parliamentarism, various theories emerged, different methodological methods were proposed to study its essence".

Obviously, one of the most delicate tasks of political science is to define parliamentarism, the reason for this is the pluralism of meanings that exist in the academic literature. The problem is that there is no single approach, this has led to disagreements in theoretical doctrine and practice, which generates a wide range of opinions that differ in one way or another.

Professor Hans K [5, p. 50] comments that "the formation of the decided will of the state by a collegial body elected by the people on the basis of universal and equal suffrage, i.e. democratic, acting on the basis of the majority principle". The link between democracy and Parliament is intrinsic, even parliamentarism embodies a real form of creating and making democracy. The sustenance and legitimacy of the power of Parliament is undoubtedly rooted in the electoral system, with the mechanism of citizen vote.

Mexican jurists Mora Donatto and Cecilia Judith delve with a new approach on parliamentarism and parliamentary control, arguing that parliamentary control is important as part of democracy and can be exercised in different systems of government, such as presidential or parliamentary. From this point of view, we understand that the approach to parliamentary activity is more functional, "In democratic-parliamentary states as forms of state, parliamentary control is a type of political control exercised through all parliamentary activity, with a special interest in minorities, and whose objective is to control the general action governments, whether they involve immediate punishment or not" [10, p. 104]. It should be noted that we share his opinion, parliamentary control should be subject to citizen oversight as a mechanism of political pressure and the performance of the political body and its members should be evaluated.

The American political scientist I. Jennings, addressing the Parliament, states that it is a subject for discussion and should be related to social thinking, as well as encourage the active participation of society, "Parliament was not created to govern, but to criticize. The objective of criticism should not only be the government's policy, but also the formation of public opinion. Words uttered in Parliament have a response in society, and this is the value of Parliament, which allows it to capture the mood in society" [6, p.472]. The author's opinion is relevant, in itself, it addresses the essence of the emergence of Parliament, being a criticism of the established power, and the promotion of debate, which in its English origins was of a bourgeois character, but, with the passing of the years focused on a more popular level and adapted to each nation. The impact of the speeches and the formation of opinion in society can lead to a greater political culture.

According to Titov, he expresses that parliamentarism is not an ideal model, this position of the author is distinguished by the importance and significance given to it by other researchers. He argues that the main feature of parliamentarism is the representative body, whether at the local or national level. "Parliamentarism is not an ideal model of organization of state power and can exist in one form or another in all forms of government and political regimes. It is not always characterized by such signs as democracy, rule of law, separation of powers, social justice, etc. Where there is a state, representative and plenipotentiary organ of state power, the Parliament, there is already parliamentarism" [11, p. 23]. Titov's position, generates different observations, firstly, we agree, that parliamentarism does not have to aspire to perfection, rather, it should be focused on its efficient functionality; secondly, we do not share his position, in that when there is a Parliament, therefore, parliamentarism exists. We consider that parliamentarism must exist in a state of law, in which it is directed by the rule of law, a state structure, and especially democracy and citizen participation, which is what gives it its essence and legitimacy.

Finally, political science, which focuses on political and theoretical analysis, investigates phenomena related to society, the state and its institutions. The discussion of political science focuses on the optimization of political power through institutions, for our case study for parliamentary institutions [7]. The problems of parliamentarism are relevant for societies in constant transformation; the relationship of politics and state institutions that ensure the rule of law, division of powers and democracy with the dominant role of the parliament elected by society.

2. Parliamentarism in present-day Ecuador

Ecuadorian parliamentarism has a series of characteristic aspects with the European models, as well as with the parliamentary structures of the Latin American region, since they share a common history and culture.

Modern parliamentarism was born out of the most important episode of the second half of the twentieth century, known as the "Return to Democracy", in 1979. Forty-five years have passed since that event (taking as a reference the date of publication of this paper), during which time the Parliament has evolved and adapted to the socio-cultural factors of Ecuador, as well as to the various political functions and roles conferred upon it by the last three modern constitutions of Ecuador [1; 2;3].

According to Sanchez (2008), the main historical moments of the development of modern democracy are when the Parliament and political parties occupied a central place in the state, social and academic scene, in addition, power was considered to be handed over to the executive, in the search for a balance of powers. Likewise, with the return to democracy, a multiparty system is developed to rationalize and channel the different social interests, the organization of political parties, translated into political representation, reflected in the national Parliament, as a real structural transformation [9].

The modern parliamentary institution has changed its name and function over the years, due to the influence of the social and political changes of its time and the desire to regenerate the political apparatus. This, at the same time, has a great influence on Ecuadorian society because it gives it the principles of trust (at least in theory), change, restructuring, progress and modernization. The names adopted by the modern Parliament were:

* National House of Representatives (1979)

* National Congress of Ecuador (1982)

* National Assembly of Ecuador (2008)

The traditional system in which the Parliament was formed has been historically and predominantly bicameral, however, as of the 1979 Constitution, the unicameral system is dictated. For Salgado [12], the criterion of unicameralism was based on a factor of transformation, while bicameralism was conceived as a brake on the social and political change of the time.

Although the "return to democracy" is considered a significant event, especially due to the victory over authoritarianism that the country has experienced. This new democratic period has not yet surpassed the expectations established in the guidelines for the "development of national policies". Historical, political and empirical research shows that the Ecuadorian political system is irregular and unstable, as are the institutions that are part of this system, such as the Parliament.

To better define this situation, let us move forward to 1976. The military triad that governed the country began the process of transition to democracy and elaborated a plan for the legal restructuring of the state, by decree n ° 996 created several commissions, among them the first Commission in charge of drafting the new Constitution. "The main objective of this plan: the legal restructuring through a referendum. The thesis of the Constituent Assembly was officially rejected. The content of the fundamental law would be coordinated with the people so that they could make a decision" [15, p.866].

The new constitutional text, submitted to a universal vote, came into force in 1979, initiating modern Ecuadorian parliamentarism.

We must ask ourselves: is it legal to draft a new Magna Carta without prior announcement of elections to elect representatives to the Constituent Assembly? The central point in the development of modern Ecuadorian democracy was the inability to convene a National Constituent Assembly, in this governmental experiment, the presence of an Ecuadorian representative body was considered inappropriate in the drafting of the Magna Carta. The political mechanism they used was the Commission in charge of drafting the aforementioned document, the state granted them a kind of constituent powers and its members were not deputies elected by the people [15]. In the first instance, these are actions that weakened the parliamentary system, on the other hand, we can consider legitimate this process promoted by the dictatorship, since the citizens, through the mechanism of direct election, approved the Constitution and with it the Electoral Law and the Law of Parties arose, which signify a democratic achievement.

The actions of parliamentarism can be understood from the actions of the parliamentary institution in the Ecuadorian situation at the end of the twentieth century. Since 1997, the country has faced a "situation of instability in democratic institutions and state power" [8, p. 94]. Therefore, a transformation in the political system took place in the Parliament. During the period 1997-1998, the Parliament is represented in two models: the first is the National Congress, which carried out the activities entrusted to the legislative branch, and the other is the National Constituent Assembly, whose task was to create a new Magna Carta. From Ecuador, it should be noted that, during this period, these parliamentary bodies functioned in parallel; however, in the period 2007-2008, a new Constituent Assembly emerges, which transfers its functions from the National Congress and assumes all powers, the ability to legislate and then appoints the National Assembly as a replacement for Congress [11].

In the 42 years (1979-2021) of the modern democratic process there were 15 legislative periods, we must clarify that the Constituent Assembly of 1997-1998 is not included, despite having the characteristics of an integrated Parliament with the system of political parties and deputies elected by popular vote, we only consider the Parliaments that have legislative function in the Ecuadorian State.

On the other hand, the number of parliamentary officials, deputies or assembly members and their ways of being elected to represent the body, can be seen in the different constitutions of Ecuador.

With the 1979 Constitution, changes appear with respect to the deputies or parliamentary officials, it is established that there must be 12 national representatives, and 2 for each province of Ecuador, except those with less than 100,000 inhabitants only have the right to one. In addition, candidates to participate in Parliament must be sponsored by a political party (Article 56).

In the 1998 Constitution, a new possibility for citizen representation in Parliament is presented, candidates may be supported by a political party or may participate without party affiliation (Article 98). On the other hand, national deputies are eliminated, and there are only provincial deputies, 2 for each province, and an additional one for each province for every two hundred thousand inhabitants or fraction exceeding one hundred fifty thousand (article 126).

The Magna Carta of 2008 establishes that citizen representation in Parliament will only be through a political party, whether or not it is affiliated to the institution (art. 112), in addition, the integration of Parliament is contemplated in its article 118, 15 national assembly members, 2 for each province and one more for every two hundred thousand inhabitants or fraction exceeding one hundred and fifty thousand, finally, the innovation lies in the election of assembly members from abroad (based outside Ecuador).

However, despite the designs and innovations implemented, several empirical studies and statistics show that the Ecuadorian legislature in its current stage has shown characteristics of weak evolution due to the lack of continuity in parliamentary practice and the constant political, economic and social crises in the country. For example, the parliamentary group that ended its functions in 2021, ended its term with 10.7% approval [4], the Ecuadorian society does not trust the parliamentary institution, unleashing problems of study, and generation of proposals for solutions to improve parliamentary quality.

From the institutional point of view, gradual progress has been manifested in the systems that support parliamentarism, in the electoral system, in citizen participation, in political representation, in the political party system and in Parliament.

2.1. Analysis of the prospects for development in Ecuador today.

The main deficiencies of the parliamentary system are more structural than substantive. By this we mean that the country, since its foundation as the Republic of Ecuador, has maintained a tendency towards a presidential model. The legislative branch is recognized as a power or function of the state, however, there is a pyramidal structure in which the executive branch is at the top. It should be noted that despite the imbalance of power in the state, the Parliament still has constitutional mechanisms to counteract the potential arbitrary growth of the executive power and the transition from democracy to dictatorship.

From a theoretical point of view, in the modern Ecuadorian democracy, the Parliament has essential characteristics for its existence and development, recognized within the constitutional and legal framework; it is capable of legislating, of controlling, being the organism that elaborates national laws, then, why is there no practical relationship between the legislative power and society?

The political disconnection is due to the lack of trust that the Ecuadorian Parliament has lost. Citizen criticism considers it a useless institution and incapable of gathering, promoting, debating and approving laws for the benefit of society or its development; this reason causes the crisis of the political system and the lack of interest of the civil population in the Parliament, in the action of the government and, in general, in the management of public institutions.

Parliamentarism without permanent citizen participation through various political mechanisms becomes a passive system, which means that if there is no citizen interest in society, Parliament will not be able to visualize the main problems of social groups, it also leaves room for blinding the processes of legislative oversight.

Another reason that has broken this link between Parliament and citizens is the political party system, this phenomenon consists of four reasons. The first is the violation by political parties and political movements of democratic principles and values, such as trust, responsibility, loyalty, transparency and freedom; these facts push society to distrust the parties or members that compose them, weakening the fragile democratic system.

The second factor is related to the development of party democracy, complex political parties have been created that have a certain degree of influence and presence at the national level and in state bodies; these political enterprises act through degrees of unfair competition, against new forms of political representation.

The third reason is the lack of preparation or political concern of Ecuadorian citizens to actively participate in militancy or create political parties or movements that address problems in their community. The fourth reason is the lack of ethics and professionalism; it has been a constant that legislative officials are focused on their personal benefit, and even promote laws that are profitable for them. These actions undermine parliamentarism, democracy and citizen representation.


  • Parliamentarism, as a category of political science, is presented as a complex phenomenon, since it embodies the real form of creating democracy and integrates the nature of political culture, the characteristics of political regimes and is the opposite of authoritarianism and abuse of power. At the state level, it is considered to be an element that contributes to balancing checks and balances of power and prevents arbitrary superiority of any of the other organs of the state. The political institution for which it works is the Parliament, the democratic body par excellence, since it represents the majority of the interests of the social groups in the community.
  • Parliamentarism developed gradually and unsteadily; in this period, its consolidation in modern Ecuadorian democracy was advanced through institutionalization, which was the basis for its progressive development, which had not yet been completed. The main challenges facing parliamentarism for its development are the solution of internal parliamentary problems related to inter-party conflicts, parliamentary legitimacy, and illegal political practices of legislators; exogenous factors undermining parliamentarism include the crisis of the political representation system, the weak empowerment of citizens and the lack of consolidation with an active political culture in Ecuador.



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  3. Constitución Política del Ecuador [Const]. 20 del octubre del 2008 (Ecuador).
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  11. Piedra Durán, M. A. (2014). El Congreso-Asamblea Nacional y sus implicaciones en la vida política del Ecuador: 1998 y 2008 (Master's thesis, Quito: FLACSO Sede Ecuador).
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Political scientist and PhD student in International Business, Universidad Michoacana de San Nicolás de Hidalgo, México, Morelia

политолог и аспирант международного бизнеса Мичоаканского университета Сан-Николас-де-Идальго, Мексика, г. Морелия

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