Thirteen million Ecuadorians are expected this Sunday (7) in the polling stations to decide whether or not they want to be under the influence of the former left-wing president Rafael Correa (2007-2017) – in the country, the voting is compulsory.
If he is forbidden to be a candidate – both because he has governed for three terms and because he is convicted of corruption and a fugitive in Belgium – Correa is the political godfather of Andrés Arauz, an economist 35 years old with a short career in public life.
A sign of the certain improvisation of his candidacy, Arauz will not be able to vote, because he has an electoral domicile in Mexico, where he holds a master’s degree.
Correa hopes that Arauz will apply his policies and not break with him, as the current president, Lenín Moreno, sponsored by the former president, did in the 2017 elections. The split between the two marked the current administration and eroded the image of Moreno, who has 7% popularity and has not even tried to re-elect.
Aided by the commodities boom, Correa increased government spending on income redistribution policies during his tenure, and is fondly and loyally remembered by an important sector of society.
And this despite the corruption cases for which he was convicted and the Odebrecht scandal – the Brazilian entrepreneur admitted to having paid in cash 2 and in bribes more than 33 million US dollars (177 million reais) during Correa’s tenure.
Proof of his ever-growing popularity is that Arauz is a favorite in unreliable polls, although they point to a likely runoff.
Opinion polls in Ecuador face logistical difficulties in hearing representative samples in communities in the Andes and the Amazon region, especially during a pandemic. Added to this is the fact that most of them refer to a large number of undecided individuals, from 40% to 50%.
These factors make election results less predictable. According to the latest survey from the Cedatos institute, Arauz holds 21.8% of the voting intentions and the businessman and banker Guillermo Lasso adds 21.2% – which leaves them tied in the margin of error of research, two percentage points, more or less. Next comes the indigenous leader Yaku Pérez, with 14.5%.
The percentages are still low, as there are 13 other candidates, but none has more than one digit in voting intentions. In Ecuador, to win in the first round, the candidate must obtain 50% of the valid votes plus one, or 40% with a difference of 10 percentage points for second place. Otherwise, the election can go to the second round, scheduled for April 11.
“Lasso’s candidacy takes advantage of the fact that there are two strong candidates on the left who will divide the voters, which are Arauz and Pérez. On the other hand, he has already shown that his stronghold was limited in previous elections, ”says political scientist Simón Pachano.
In 2017, Guillermo Lasso, 65, lost in the second round by a small difference in votes for Moreno (51.1% against 48.8%). He was unwilling to accept the result, alleged fraud and attempted to take people to the streets to demand a recount. He didn’t cheer on many more people than his supporters and ended up having to throw in the towel. Now he’s trying again, thanks to the support of Jaime Nebot, former mayor of Guayaquil, popular with anti-racists.
New among those likely to go to the second round is Pérez, whose candidacy has strengthened after the 2019 protests against the Moreno government. The candidate aims to be Ecuador’s first indigenous president.
The campaign was marked by a challenge to somewhat exaggerated promises. Arauz orders it, with the commitment to immediately distribute US $ 1,000 (R $ 5,388) to 1 million families and to create a new wealth tax.
Lasso, while advocating austerity policies, also guaranteed bonuses and new housing for those who lost their jobs during the pandemic and said he would be able to create 1 million new jobs in a year.
One of the problems the new president will face is Ecuador’s high level of debt, equivalent to 44% of GDP. Arauz blames Moreno for increasing the debt and threatens not to pay the IMF, which has loaned Ecuador $ 4.6 billion (around R $ 24.8 billion). The right-wing candidate says he doesn’t want to pay it, and Lasso threatens that it erodes the country’s image a lot.
The coronavirus crisis, whose contagion curve is on the rise again, promises to leave strong marks on the economy. The country’s GDP declined by 9% in 2020, and unemployment has doubled in the past nine months – it stands at 8.6%.
Another important issue will be to resolve the social divide caused by the indigenous protests of 2019. If, on the one hand, the unions in the sector have strengthened and managed to prevent the increase in fuel, other complaints have been suspended .
One is the demand of indigenous peoples for greater political participation and greater cultural and linguistic recognition. There are about 25% indigenous or descendants of indigenous people in the country’s population, or 17 million.
Ecuador will also renew its unicameral parliament, the National Assembly, with 137 members and choose its five representatives in the Andean Parliament.
Election in Ecuador
260 international observers follow the election, in addition to 2,540 nationals
13 million Ecuadorians have the right to vote
2,036 electoral zones are installed in the country, while 101 are abroad
What positions are at stake?
President, members of the National Assembly and Ecuadorian members of the Andean Parliament, which brings together 25 representatives from Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Chile.
Is there a second shift?
Yes, if no candidate obtains 50% of the valid votes plus one, or 40% with a difference of 10 percentage points for the finalist, there will be a second round, scheduled for April 11.
Is voting compulsory?
Yes for Ecuadorians aged 18 to 65, and there is a fine for unjustified absence. For those aged 16 and 17 or over 65, participation in the election is voluntary.
Is there an early vote?
No, but this year 653 Ecuadorians took part in the Voto em Casa, which allowed people over 50 and physically disabled to compromise 75% or more of their mobility to exercise this right. These votes were collected Friday (5), by the electoral commissions.
Is the vote electronic?
No, the vote is on paper, but this year the National Electoral Council is conducting a test with voters in the USA, Canada and Argentina for three forms of voting: telematic, in which the Internet is used to transmit the vote, by the through a system activated by the CNE; electronic, but unlike in Brazil, the ballot box receives the ballot, reads the vote and issues a receipt so that the voter can confirm that the choice is correct; and by correspondence, with prior delivery of the ballot papers.
What are the preventive measures for the coronavirus?
The CNE divided the vote into time slots according to the last number of the identity card. Whoever has the document ending in an even number must go and vote between 7 am and 12 noon. For odd numbers, the time is between 12 p.m. and 5 p.m. There are also measures like going to the polling station alone, keeping your distance and wearing a mask, in addition to the recommendation to bring your own pen.