Sunday, February 19, 2017

Ecuador: The End of the 'Citizens' Revolution'?

For the first time in ten years the name Rafael Correa will not be on the ballot in this Sunday's presidential election. The 'Citizens' Revolution,' as Correa calls his administration, could nevertheless go on.

Candidate Lenin Moreno is the parting president's presumptive heir, and he leads the latest opinion polls. But it appears unlikely that he will win an outright victory in the first round of voting: Moreno only looks to have about 32 percent of the vote at the moment. Thus, an April runoff is probable.

Political analysts say that the candidate's sinking popularity is the result of corruption scandals involving, among others, Ecuador's state oil company Petroecuador, and the Brazilian construction company Odebrecht. Santiago Basabe, an analyst at the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences (FLASCO), says that numerous criminal charges against government officials are key. "It is hard to say just how much they have influenced Moreno's candidacy, but I believe that it has cost him a few percentage points. And that could be decisive on Sunday."

Presidential candidate Guillermo Lasso is currently coming second in the polls.

Who can threaten Moreno?

The fact that Correa's "Citizens' Revolution" has brought the country previously unheard of political stability, institutional progress and social success could work to Lenin Moreno's advantage. At the same time, Correa is so omnipresent that many fear he could actually be the one pulling the strings behind the scenes. Analysts like Basabe say that the people have grown weary of the parting president.

Nonetheless, no polls point to any candidate that could be a threat to Moreno: liberal-conservative candidate Guillermo Lasso can count on about 22 percent of the vote at best; the most optimistic polls only put Christian democrat Cynthia Viteri at about 20 percent; and social democrat Paco Moncayo is predicted to win a maximum of 12 percent.

Although the candidate's numbers vary by several percentage points, in individual polls just days ahead of the vote, one thing was certain: some 13 million voters were still undecided.

Paco Moncayo is the candidate for the Democratic Left, Ecuador's social-democratic party.
Moreno's runoff opponent unknown

Guillermo Lasso and Cynthia Viteri are both running on similar platforms. Both promise to cut taxes and increase respect for individual freedoms. Basabe also sees little foreign policy difference: "Both will certainly seek rapprochement with the USA and push forward with the EU treaty. Moreover, they will seek to strengthen Ecuador's position in the UNASUR alliance, as well as repositioning it at the UN." Basabe thinks it would be an important turn of events should one of the two defeat Moreno in a runoff election.

The analyst says that social democrat Paco Moncayo, a retired military general and former mayor of Quito, ran a weak election campaign. He missed the opportunity to win over left-leaning voters disappointed with the "Citizen's Revolution" but also unwilling to vote for candidates on the right.

Moncayo, says the analyst, failed to distance himself clearly enough from Correa's policies. He added that citizens had expected him to be more of an opposition candidate.

Neck and neck race

It is highly unlikely that any candidate will win the election in the first round of voting, as observers are counting on an even distribution of undecided voters among the candidates. It is, however, seen as a forgone conclusion that Moreno will advance to the second round. But the question is, Who will he face in April?

Another looming question has to do with the future of parting President Rafael Correa. He has declared that he will retire from politics when he steps down, but in December a rule change was put in place that would allow him to run for office again after sitting out one term. Many observers are convinced that Moreno will simply serve as a "placeholder," and that Correa will eventually take the helm again in the near future.  

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