On 20th February 2017, Ecuadorians went to the polls to vote for their next President. The election, which is not yet over, will be the first election since 2006 that incumbent President Rafael Correa will not contest, due to the country’s constitutional presidential three-term limit.
The main three candidates for this election are Correa’s Vice-President Lenín Moreno running for Alianza PAIS, Guilllermo Lasso for the Creando Oportunidades party and Cynthia Viteria for the Christian Socialists. In order to win the Presidency in the first round, a candidate needs to win a minimum of 40% of the votes and have a 10 percentage-point lead over the next candidate.
Rafael Correa won the Presidential elections for the Alianza PAIS in 2006, as part of the so-called ‘left turn’ in Latin America. Correa was then re-elected in 2009 and then in 2013. He stood as the anti-establishment candidate and sought to move Ecuador away from a neoliberal economic model. He has called his Presidency the ‘new socialism of the twenty-first century.’ He was very strongly backed by popular movement who had been mobilising against the political elite that Correa was standing up against.
Correa also formulated a strong friendship and alliance with Hugo Chávez, the deceased socialist President of Venezuela, as well as Evo Morales, another socialist leader and President of Bolivia. He was also friendly with Fidel Castro, the recently deceased president of Communist Cuba, and Daniel Ortega, President of Nicaragua.
Bolivia, Ecuador and Venezuela created an alliance to challenge the historic domination of the US in Latin America, especially in the oil industry. Correa used these oil revenues, as well as the money from the national debt that he refused to pay back, to fund successful social projects to alleviate poverty and increase job opportunities, mainly in the construction sector. Correa’s aim was to transform the financial sector so that it served the people, rather than local elites or the international financial system.
Correa has largely been popular with Ecuadorians because of the alleviation of poverty, but he has also failed his country.
The reliance on oil has caused economic downturn in Ecuador because oil revenues for OPEC countries have declined. Ecuador has managed to ride this crisis better than Venezuela, but many of the poorer Ecuadorians are struggling. Additionally, over his decade in office, he has become increasingly dictatorial, especially in his dealings with the media and protests. This concerned many Ecuadorians that they were going to follow Venezuela in that, and other, damaging respects.
Moreno has moved away from Correa in the past few years, despite being his Vice-President and serving on his cabinet. He is less confrontational and ardently socialist than Correa. He is paraplegic and so has focused both on disabled peoples’ rights, which makes him stand out in the region. His central campaign promises are dealing with corruption among the political elites and increasingly both employment and education opportunities for all Ecuadoreans.
Lasso is a centre-right businessman, who is a large shareholder in one of Ecuador’s largest banks, who ran against Correa at the last Presidential election. He is more business friendly than the Alianza PAIS party and has pledged to revive the economy by drastically cutting taxes, fostering foreign investment and creating millions of jobs.
Viteria, who is running for the Christian Socialists, is an ex-journalist turned politician who also ran in 2006, when Correa won his first term. Her main campaign promises were to reduce government spending on existing job creation scheme and to find new ways to create necessary jobs in Ecuador.
None of the candidates received the necessary 40% of the vote in the first round – Moreno received 39.2% and Lasso received 28.3%.
This means that there will be a second round in April between just between Moreno and Lasso. This is the first time this has happened since 2006.
Although Moreno is currently in the lead, it is possible that the opposition to Correa’s party could unite around Lasso, although it is likely to be extremely close. If the right win, this would see Ecuador follow Argentina, Brazil and Peru in moving away from left-wing policies due to economic difficulties. The next few months will be a tense time for Ecuador as the population are forced to decide between essentially Correa-light and a banker.
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