Ecuador's Correa poised for win in assembly vote

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QUITO, Sep 30 (Reuters) Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa's party is expected to win a majority of seats in Sunday's election for a national assembly that the left-winger wants to dissolve Congress and rewrite the constitution.

Polls show Correa's Alianza Pais (Country Alliance) party is expected to capture close to 66 seats, the number needed to control the 130-member assembly that will draft reforms for South America's No 5. oil producer.

The popular former economy minister has vowed sweeping reforms through the assembly. Correa wants to curb the powers of traditional political parties and the Congress, which are widely blamed for the chronic instability that has ousted three presidents in a decade.

A fragmented opposition says Correa wants to use the assembly to consolidate his presidential powers and tighten his grip on key state institutions like his ally Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez did after he was elected in 1998.

More than 9 million Ecuadoreans from Andean hamlets to the Amazon jungle will choose among more than 3,000 candidates, including ex-beauty queens and Marxists, offering everything from jobs to a death penalty bill.

Many voters are confused by the myriad candidates and their pledges, and a complex proportional method for assigning seats that could delay Sunday's official tally.

Investors are watching Ecuador's vote closely as they are concerned a solid win could give Correa a stronger mandate to forge ahead with his promises to boost state control over the economy and natural resources.

The US-trained economist has Wall Street on edge with promises to restructure the country's 10.4 billion dollars foreign debt load, overhaul foreign oil contracts and review mining concessions.

Correa's former presidential rival and banana mogul, Alvaro Noboa, and ousted President Lucio Gutierrez, who fell during street protests in 2005, have vowed to block Correa's influence in the assembly.

They are playing on fears that Correa will wreck the economy of the world's top banana exporter by mismanaging the crucial oil sector and scaring away investment with pledges to roll back free-market policies.

REUTERS SZ RK1215

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