:::::::::: Exclusive ::::::::::
Has Ecuador stemmed South America’s receding pink tide?
by Marc Becker
In a nail-biting finish, it appears that Lenín Moreno has fallen just short of a first-round triumph in Sunday’s presidential election in Ecuador.
In order to avoid a runoff election, a candidate must either win a majority of the vote or 40 percent with a 10-point margin over the nearest contender.
Preliminary electoral results show Moreno ahead of his nearest rival Guillermo Lasso by about 10 points, but just shy of the required 40 percent of the total vote.
Moreno is the candidate for Alianza Pais (AP) of outgoing president Rafael Correa. After ten years in office, term limits prevented Correa from running again. The conservative banker and former finance minister Lasso ran as the candidate for an alliance between two rightwing parties, Creating Opportunities (CREO) and United Society More Action (SUMA).
Moreno finished stronger than many pre-election polls had indicated, with some showing him in the mid 30s. Recent polling, not only in Ecuador but across the hemisphere, has been notoriously unreliable.
A total of eight candidates were on Sunday’s ballot. Before Correa’s ascent to power in 2007, multi-party races meant that it was rare for the eventually winner to poll more than about a quarter of the vote in the first round. Correa won outright in his 2009 reelection campaign—the first time a candidate had achieved that feat since Ecuador’s return to civilian rule in 1979.
An open question now is what will happen in Ecuador’s April 2 runoff election.
Far behind Moreno and Lasso were the conservative candidate Cynthia Viteri with about 16 percent of the vote, and the center-leftist Paco Moncayo with almost 7 percent.
If the supporters of those two candidates threw their support behind those top finishers on the left and the right, the finish would be a dead heat. But in Ecuador’s fractured landscape, such alliances are not a given.
Long-standing divisions on the right prevented Lasso and Viteri from unifying their forces in the first round, and a significant amount of fence mending would have to be accomplished for them to build an effective alliance for the second.
Similarly for the left, Correa’s authoritarianism and extractive-based economy alienated many would be supporters on the environmental and social movement left. Some of those supported the social democratic candidacy of Moncayo, while others openly backed Lasso in the belief that he stood the best chance of defeating Correa’s chosen successor.
Some analysts contend that it will be difficult for the leftist Moreno to grow his support beyond the 40 percent he won in the first round. Although well regarded, he lacks the personal charisma of his mentor Correa.
Similar to Jorge Castañeda’s opportunistic support for Vicente Fox in Mexico in 2000 to evict the entrenched PRI from power, no one who supports Lasso can be reasonably considered to be on the left. Lasso pledges a return to neoliberal economic polices against which social movements had fought for decades.
During Correa’s decade in power, social spending lifted millions out of poverty. Moreno promises to continue those social program through more effective taxation policies. Lasso pledges to cut social spending, slash taxes, and create a million jobs.
Voting is obligatory for Ecuador’s nearly 13 million citizens.
Voters also approved a referendum that prohibits elected officials and public servants from holding assets in tax havens. Former economic minister Lasso has been deeply implicated in previous bank crises and corruption scandals, which raises the interesting question of whether he would be allowed to assume office were he to win.