At the end of February 2017, the Ecuadorian electorate went to the polls to vote for their next President. This election was the first one since 2006, in which incumbent President Rafael Correa, a left-winger who was closely aligned with Hugo Chávez of Venezuela and Evo Morales of Bolivia and elected in the so-called ‘left turn’ in the region, could not stand because of Ecuador’s constitutional three-term presidential limit.
None of the candidates managed to reach the 40% threshold necessary to win outright and thus there was a second round between the top two candidates, Lenín Moreno and Guillermo Lasso. Moreno was standing for the Alianza PAIS, Correa’s party, and in fact he had been Correa’s Vice President and served in the Cabinet. However, he has moved away from Correa recently and embraced his own agenda. Nonetheless, Correa’s outgoing government has fully supported Moreno’s presidential bid, thus hindering Moreno’s ability to radically move away from Correa and his divisive legacy. His main policies are linked to improving the employment and educational opportunities of ordinary Ecuadoreans. Lasso was the candidate for Creando Opportunidades. He is centre-right businessman who has pledged to revive Ecuador’s struggling economy by cutting taxes, fostering foreign investment and creating millions of jobs.
The results of the second round were announced on 3rd April – Moreno was declared the winner with 51% of the votes. However, Lasso immediately declared these results fraudulent and demanded a full recount. The National Electoral Council agreed to recount 10% of the votes, which was around 1.3 million. This week the National Electoral Council announced that there was no variation in the results and thus Moreno was declared the winner. Lasso has continued to question the announcement and claims that the partial recount was insufficient. However, the Organisation of American States, the Americas version of the EU, said that they regarded the decision to be ‘an exercise in transparency.’ Moreno will be sworn in as President on 24th May.
The outcome of this election is significant for Latin America as a region. With economic decline across the continent due to the drop in the price of oil and other exports, the entire region has shifted to the right in recent elections – for example, both Argentina and Peru now have conservative Presidents. Furthermore, the left in Latin America is discredited by both Rousseff’s impeachment in Brazil and the extreme economic decline and continuing violent protests in Venezuela, therefore, the fall of the left in Ecuador could be seen as another nail in the coffin of Latin American left-wing politics.
Instead the left has managed to cling onto power in this Andean nation by the skin of their teeth. It remains to be seen how much power Correa will retain over Ecuador despite Moreno continually claiming that he will be the one who governs. Ecuador will be an interesting country to watch whilst a moderate left-wing government deals with economic difficulties whilst adhering to their redistribution promises.
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