What to Know About the Presidential Election in Ecuador

On Sunday, April 2, voters in Ecuador will go to the polls to elect a new president in a run-off election. Here is what you need to know about the electoral process and the candidates:

Election 2017

Ecuador is a multiparty democratic country located in northwestern South America. The Alianza PAIS party currently controls a majority of the National Assembly and the presidency.

In Ecuador, voting is compulsory for citizens 18 years and older. The penalty for not voting is a $37.50 fine. Voter turnout has risen from its nadir of 47% in 1998 to more than 80% in 2013.

The president is elected by popular vote. To be elected on the first round, a candidate must either 1) receive more than 50% of the valid votes or 2) receive more than 40% of the valid vote and at least 10% of the total valid votes more than the runner-up. Invalid votes are a significant issue in Ecuador: in 2013, 22% of votes were considered invalid.

While President Correa was able to win in the first round with a majority of the popular vote both in 2009 and 2013, no candidate was able to secure the 40% threshold to avoid a runoff. The results for the top two candidates in the February 19 first round were 39.36% for Lenin Moreno and 28.09% for Guillermo Lasso.

After the February 19 general election, the Alianza PAIS party retained control of the National Assembly but lost 26 seats (74 of 137 seats). The opposition CREO-SUMA party gained 22 seats (34 of 137).

Lenín Moreno

Moreno was the Vice President from 2007 to 2013 and is the candidate for President Correa’s party, Alianza País. Moreno’s platform is a continuation and expansion of many of the leftist policies of the Correa administration, including increasing old age pensions, improving transportation infrastructure, and increased spending on higher education.

His running mate, Jorge Glas, is the current Vice President. Although he has vehemently denied the allegations, Glas was accused of corruption by the CREO-SUMA presidential candidate, Guillermo Lasso.

Guillermo Lasso

Lasso was head of the Banco de Guayaquil, the second largest bank in Ecuador. He was the presidential candidate for the center-right CREO party in 2012 and received 22% of the popular vote. This time, he is the candidate of the CREO-SUMA alliance.

He is a critic of Correa’s leftist economic policies. He is a proponent private industry and the free market. The key feature of Lasso’s platform is his proposal to eliminate 14 taxes.

Should Lasso win, he will have a difficult time getting his agenda through the National Assembly where the Alianza PAIS was able to retain an outright majority after the February 19 general election.

Impact of the Venezuelan Crisis

The recent crisis in Venezuela has thrown a last minute twist in a closely contested election.

On March 29, the Supreme Court, which has been packed with supporters of the Maduro administration, stripped the opposition-controlled legislature of much of its remaining power.

After significant domestic and international backlash, the Venezuelan Supreme Court partially revised its previous ruling. It is unclear how much power the updated ruling will leave the national legislature.

As Reuters reports the crisis may push some undecided voters away from Moreno and the Alianza PAIS because of the friendly relationship between President Corea and the Maduro government and its predecessor under Hugo Chavez.

Polls suggest a very close race between Guillermo Lasso and Lenin Moreno. This race could cement the narrative in South America in the coming years.

Will it be a resurgent right as happened in Argentina and Colombia or a continuation of the 21st-century socialism espoused by Presidents Chavez and Maduro in Venezuela, Morales in Boliva, and Corea in Ecuador?

Election night results can be viewed on El Comercio.

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