(Bloomberg) -- Polls are open in Ecuador for a referendum that would allow the extradition of mafia bosses to US prisons, in a first hard test of President Daniel Noboa’s popularity. 

The nation’s 14 million voters will also decide if the army should permanently take on policing functions, and whether to ease restrictions on employers paying workers by the hour. 

Nine of the referendum questions concern measures to crackdown on the organized crime gangs that have made Ecuador more violent than Mexico and Colombia, while the other two are economic reforms popular with investors. 

A win would bolster the 36-year old Noboa’s bid for reelection, while defeat on his economic proposals could potentially spook investors as he seeks a deal with the International Monetary Fund. 

Read more: Ecuador Bonds Gain Most in EM as New IMF Deal Nears

The vote takes place amid an international crisis triggered when Noboa sent police into Mexico’s embassy this month to arrest a former vice president convicted of corruption. Ecuador’s violation of diplomatic protocols caused widespread international condemnation, but many locals rallied behind the government. 

Noboa, the US-educated son of wealthy banana exporters, took office in November, but only to serve out the term of Guillermo Lasso which ends next year. The country holds another general election on Feb. 9.  

Emergency Powers

His declaration of war on drug cartels and the use of emergency powers to fight gangs led to soaring approval ratings in his first months in office, giving him the confidence to seek voters’ backing for his reforms. When the unpopular Lasso held a referendum last year, including on extradition, he was defeated on every single question.

Polls published last week showed strong support for the security-related proposals but less enthusiasm for the economic reforms, although they also appeared likely to pass. However, many voters are likely to make up their minds at the last moment. 

Under local law it’s illegal to publish opinion polls within a week of the vote. 

While homicides have declined, the nation remains extremely violent. Almost 40,000 troops have been deployed to provide security at polling stations. Mayors of two mining towns in southwest Ecuador were assassinated within hours of each other just days before the voting.

On the economy, Noboa is also proposing to allow international arbitration in an attempt to make investors feel more confident about putting their money into Ecuador. 

Noboa was embarrassed this week by a return of rolling blackouts, after passing a law reforming the electricity sector that promised to end this long-standing problem. Business and government offices were ordered shut Thursday and Friday due do the lack of power.  

Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. local time, and the first results are expected at around 7.30 p.m. 

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