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General election in Ecuador: the legacy of Lenin Moreno

While the entire planet is trying to figure out whose vaccine is the most effective in the fight against coronavirus, a presidential election was held in the small South American country, Ecuador, the results of which, analysts believe, would have a significant impact on the further development of all Latin America. How is the electoral process going? Who is in the spotlight?

On February 7, the first round of the presidential election took place in Ecuador, which could not determine the winner. This time, 13 million voters in this South American country could vote for one of 16 presidential candidates (including only one woman). The second round of the electoral process is scheduled for April 11.

Against the background of general fatigue from empty promises, skepticism, a high level of public discontent, 20% unemployment, a sharp increase in the poverty rate, the government of the President Lenin Moreno (Spanish – Lenin Boltaire Moreno Garcés) found itself helpless in solving elementary problems of maintaining social stability. Corruption scandals and a real collapse of the healthcare system (more than 15 thousand people died from the coronavirus in Ecuador), which received publicity at all levels, became the main reasons for slogans and theses regarding the change of power.

In May 2017, when Lenin Moreno took office, few could have imagined that the Socialist candidate’s rule would be remembered as a gradual plunge into a structural crisis. Combating corruption scandals and drug trafficking, the loss of the right to asylum for Julian Assange (Julian Paul Assange), abduction and murder of a group of journalists on the border of Ecuador and Colombia, confrontation with the former associate and leader of the “left” wing Rafael Correa (Spanish – Rafael Vicente Correa Delgado), an acute socio-economic crisis, violent riots in October 2019 and, like a “cherry on top” – the government’s inability to fight the coronavirus in the first months of the pandemic outbreak in the region are just a few events that will remember the four-year presidency of the outgoing the post of the head of state.

In the last election in 2017, Moreno was nominated as a candidate for the ruling “Alliance of Proud and Sovereign Homeland” (Spanish – Alianza PAIS), led by the former President Rafael Correa, a cult figure in the country’s politics. At the time, the Socialist bloc candidate enjoyed widespread support from the “Correists”, and it was planned that he would continue the line that his predecessor had pursued.

Despite such expectations, after taking over as head of state, Lenin Moreno made an unexpected turn from a “left” orientation towards a conservative policy. According to the president’s own statement, before the election, he intended to make some adjustments to the domestic and foreign policy of Ecuador. Nevertheless, in his worlds, when he realized the extent and depth of corruption and debt in which the country was mired, Moreno decided to make a sharp turn “to the right”.

el pais
Rafael Correa and Lenin Moreno, 2017. Source: El País.

Thus, Lenin Moreno was actually elected president in 2017 thanks to the popularity of Correa, and then turned the country 180 degrees. On his personal initiative, more than twenty criminal matters were initiated against Rafael Correa on charges of “corruption cases”, and the Supreme Court of Ecuador passed a sentence to the former head of state, sentencing Correa to 8 years in prison. Nevertheless, Belgium granted Rafael Correa political asylum.

It is worth noting that Lenin Moreno asked the IMF for financial assistance for $ 4.2 billion. Under the terms, the government of Ecuador has pledged to cut government spending. The result was the Presidential Decree No. 883, through which government subsidies for fuel were removed, which caused a sharp rise in gasoline prices. In connection with this, tariffs for urban, intercity and regional transport have increased. Such measures primarily hit the low-income indigenous population and became a conflict point for many Ecuadorians. In October 2019, a wave of protests hit Ecuador. The population was so dissatisfied with the policy of the head of state that the very existence of the government of Lenin Moreno was threatened.

A number of political analysts agree that Moreno could not resist the proposed opportunities and pressure from Washington, which, with his help, solved two of its main tasks: once again removed this South American country from the camp of opponents of the White House, and betrayed Assange. As a result, Moreno’s rating today fluctuates at a very low level, and for the reason he did not even dare to nominate any candidate on his behalf.

Ecuador election 2021. Top favorites.
The main favorites of the first round of voting: Yaku Perez, Andres Arauz and Guillermo Lasso Mendoza.

The first round of the general election in Ecuador, which took place on February 7, again demonstrated that Ecuadorians are more inclined towards the “socialist project”, share the ideas of the “left” and reject liberal politics, as well as flirting with Washington. According to the National Electoral Council of this South American country, after counting 96% of the ballots, Andrés Arauz (Spanish – Andrés Arauz Galarza), a candidate from the political bloc “Union for Hope” (Spanish – Unión por la Esperanza), who previously won 32.43% of the vote. In addition, who will become his rival in the second round of the electoral process will become clear only after summing up the results. The fact is that the banker and right-wing politician Guillermo Lasso Mendoza (Spanish – Guillermo Alberto Santiago Lasso Mendoza) from the “Creating Opportunities Movement” (Spanish – Movimiento CREO) and the candidate from the “Movement for Multinational Unity of Pachacutik” (Spanish – Movimiento de Unidad Plurinacional Pachakutik) Yaku Perez (Spanish – Yaku Sacha Pérez Guartambel) have a minimal gap. According to preliminary results, the first is gaining 19.68% of the vote, the second – 19.59%. The difference between them is so small that at any moment the situation can change, as it has already happened several times during the counting of votes.

The past first round of the electoral process in Ecuador has in fact become a choice between the legacy of the “left” wing of Rafael Correa and the neoliberal course pursued by the authorities up to the present moment. Andres Arauz, who is the successor of the ideas of the “social project”, wins this stage by a large margin and goes to the second round, which was by no means a surprise.

The main intrigue was that, as it was assumed; Arauz’s main rival – a supporter of the current government and representative of the banking capital Guillermo Lasso – might not make it to the second round. And the third candidate, positioning himself as a defender of the indigenous peoples of Ecuador, the leader of the “Movement for Multinational Unity of Pachacutik” Yaku Perez goes “nose to nose” with a representative of the neoliberal forces. Moreover, if this trend continues by the time 100% of the votes are counted, the Ecuadorians in the next round in April will face a choice between two candidates from the “left” forces. The second round of voting will take place on April 11. Today, the main question remains only whether Ecuador is expecting a return to the orbit of the Latin American “left”.

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