Ecuador elects president. It will do it between two candidates located in ideological antipodes and mired in the disenchantment of a population fed up with the economic crisis and disbelieving in politics. Polls anticipate a technical tie between Andrés Arauz, the candidate promoted by former President Rafael Correa and winner of the first round on February 7, and conservative leader Guillermo Lasso, who is on his third attempt. A triumph for Arauz will mean the return of Correísmo after the four-year hiatus that Lenín Moreno meant. Lasso’s victory will put a man of liberal ideas in power who has the support of power elites. Whatever the result, the winner will have a major challenge ahead: empty coffers, rising social demands and a Congress without majorities that will force complex support networks to be woven.
Arauz, a 36-year-old leader almost unknown to most Ecuadorians, won the first round with 37% of the vote, boosted by the support he received from Rafael Correa. In second place, 13 points behind, was Lasso, who went on to the tiebreaker after beating the indigenous candidate, Yaku Pérez, by just 0.3%. However, the second round finds Arauz and Lasso in a technical tie, according to the polls. “What was a very clear victory for Arauz and a defeat for Lasso in the first round has changed during these weeks, in a political context of frustration and the rejection of voters to the the state”Says Sebastián Hurtado, president of the Profitas consultancy.
The frustration has resulted in a demand for something new. That was the vote that fueled the candidacy of Yaku Pérez and the leftist Xavier Hervas, who finished fourth in February. “We believed that those votes were going to benefit Arauz, because it represented a change. But during the second round, Lasso did a good job of tarnishing his rival’s opposition and trade credentials, ”explains Hurtado.
Both promise to reactivate the economy, regain employment, protect the poorest and guarantee health and education. But their recipes are opposite. For Arauz, the State must be the engine of the economy and the main provider of the services that Ecuadorians need. The correista candidate has promised in the campaign a $ 1,000 bonus for a million families affected by the ravages of the pandemic. To finance this program, it will use funds from the Central Bank. Lasso, on the other hand, is committed to an economy open to the world and a minimal and efficient State. He has also proposed doubling the oil activity, the country’s main source of foreign exchange.
The differences between the two are structural, also in foreign policy. While Arauz wants to recover the spirit of regional institutions that were key at the beginning of the century, such as Unasur (Ecuador withdrew from that bloc in March 2019) and Celac, Lasso will seek bilateral trade agreements with the United States, China or Korea. South and will promote integration with the Pacific Alliance.
A polarizing discourse
Lasso reissued in his campaign the confrontation of 2017 against Correa, with a speech that spoke of authoritarianism and corruption as the matrix of correísmo. For this reason, in the second round, Arauz adjusted his campaign strategy. Paulina Rodríguez, director of the consulting firm Perfiles de Opinion, highlights that “Arauz sought to generate its own and more autonomous voice [de Rafael Correa, su mentor] and he even talked about the mistakes that had been made in the past. Correa then disappeared from the posters and there was a gesture of distancing. How true that is is another issue, but it was a campaign resource, ”says Rodríguez. The tie in the polls shows the limits of this strategy, although Hurtado sees Arauz as an advantage. “It has a clearer profile of outsider of current policies, with more possibilities of capitalizing on a hidden vote and of capturing undecided and null votes ”, he explains.
The invalid vote reached 19% in the first round and can grow even more in the second. Yako Pérez and his party, Pachakutik, have asked their supporters to annul the vote to show their electoral power. But only the result of the ballot box will reveal how far the bases of the indigenous movement are aligned with their leaders. The indigenous vote, which represents between 7 and 10% of the national census, will be key this Sunday, but it is not a homogeneous mass. The divisions are such that it is difficult to predict where it will go.
The polling stations will open this Sunday at 07.00 hours and will remain open for ten hours. Unlike the first round, the National Electoral Council it will not give partial or quick count results, a tool that takes a representative sample and anticipates trends. According to the CNE, the tables will take between 45 minutes and an hour to count all the ballots and transfer the information to the central office.
The intention of the CNE is to have a clear trend towards 10 pm on Sunday, but if the parity anticipated by the polls is confirmed there will be delays. “The only desirable thing is that whoever wins has a clear majority, of more than five points, because if we do not catch fire, they will say fraud over there and fraud over here,” says former presidential candidate and former deputy Jacinto Velázquez. Both candidates aired their fear of possible fraud, although without presenting any evidence. An adjusted result would be bad news for Ecuador.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.