Sunday, February 28

Presidential Elections: Electoral Chaos in Ecuador | Opinion

Supporters of the candidate for the presidency of Ecuador Yaku Pérez march during a protest in Quito (Ecuador).
Supporters of the candidate for the presidency of Ecuador Yaku Pérez march during a protest in Quito (Ecuador).José Jácome / EFE

The disastrous electoral process that has marked the first round of the presidential elections in Ecuador, held on February 7, seriously threatens the social and institutional stability of the South American country. Until today, it is still not known who will be the candidate who will have to measure the winner, Andrés Arauz, in the second round, with a date set for April 11. In principle, the difference in votes between two very different political options is extremely small; that of the conservative Guillermo Lasso and that of the indigenous leader Yaku Pérez, who has starred in the surprise even if he does not go to the second round. But this circumstance of almost equal results – something plausible in any election – has become a destabilizing factor in the face of the dangerous ineffectiveness of an electoral mechanism that must be urgently reviewed.

The numerous difficulties in the recount and a barrage of challenges produced a total paralysis in the process of verification and proclamation of results, Pérez denounced electoral fraud and asked his bases to mobilize. After five days of political talks, all the parties reached an agreement by which the electoral records in 17 provinces of the 24 that make up the Andean country will be reviewed and 100% of the ballot boxes will be counted in some territories such as Guayas. A method that began last Sunday, but for which the National Electoral Council has not given any estimate of completion, adding uncertainty to an almost already derailed electoral procedure.

All these conditions have created a highly flammable outlook in a country with significant social and political tensions fueled by the same electoral struggle and the harsh consequences that the pandemic is having. There is no doubt that the longer it takes to deliver a final result, the more likely it is that the mounting tension will eventually explode. It is true that the two candidates who are fighting to go to the second round have indicated after the agreement reached that they will abide by the verdict of the National Electoral Council, and this is essential to calm the spirits of the electorate, but in no way reduces the obligation of the body to verify the votes with the greatest speed and complete transparency. It is also necessary that all the country’s institutions demonstrate maturity and multiply efforts to overcome the situation.

In any case, the damage has already been done and the dynamics experienced so far will cast legitimate doubts on the voting system. Democracy not only has to be transparent, it also has to appear so.

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