Understanding the use of recall referendums evidence from Ecuador

Yanina WELP

The recall referendum - a referendum triggered by citizens seeking to remove elected officials by means of a binding vote - used to be a rare institution, but since the 1990s has spread in different areas of the world. The frequency of its activation has been explained by three sets of sometimes interconnected variables: growing citizen dissatisfaction, institutional design (i.e. ease of activation), and the activity of political parties using the mechanism against their opponents, specially in contexts of low party-system institutionalization. This article proposes an additional variable: the role of electoral management bodies (EMBs) in allowing or preventing recall attempts. The empirical analysis focuses on the Ecuadorian experience, where legal provisions governing recall were introduced in 1998, modified in 2008, and amended in 2011, with a dramatic variation in the frequency of recall activations after each change.