Ecuador’s political crossroad

Shaking up Ecuador's 2023 presidential race.

Amidst a turbulent election campaign marred by significant security concerns and the tragic assassination of presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio just eleven days before Ecuadorians headed to the polls on August 20, 2023, the political landscape of the nation witnessed a surprising turn of events. The unexpected emergence of outsider Daniel Noboa Azín as the second most-voted candidate has set the stage for a presidential run-off scheduled for October 15. His rival is pro-Correista candidate Luisa González Alcívar, representing the Revolución Ciudadana party, who secured substantial backing with more than 30 percent of the electorate, giving her a notable lead of nearly 10 percentage points. 

Meanwhile, Christian Zurita, stepping in to replace the late Fernando Villavicencio, managed to secure the third position in the elections, capitalising on the “mourning vote” (voto luto) and garnering widespread support from the population. 

With the official results now confirmed, three significant political forces are set to appear on the ballot for the impending presidential run-off: the Revolución Ciudadana of González and Acción Democrática Nacional (ADN) of Noboa supported by the allies People, Equality, and Democracy (PID) and Mover (formerly known as Alianza PAIS). 

The presidential race presents a striking contrast between the two main contenders. Luisa González, with a rich history in the public sector, particularly during the Correa administration, enjoys solid support from Correista loyalists. In contrast, Daniel Noboa Azín, a 35-year-old businessman hailing from one of Latin America’s wealthiest families, achieved a notable 23.4 percent of the vote independently, as he “has managed to understand that most voters are millennials, guided not only by politics but also by their social environment,” explained a managing partner at Almeida Guzmán Asociados in Quito. 

“[Noboa] has managed to understand that most voters are millennials, guided not only by politics but also by their social environment.”

A managing partner at Almeida Guzmán Asociados, Ecuador

What adds intrigue to this electoral showdown is that both candidates are relative newcomers to the political scene. Their first foray into legislative elections in 2021 saw them secure seats for just two years, yet they have now managed to propel themselves into the presidential run-off in their debut presidential campaigns, with “Noboa having a good chance of winning the next elections,” stated the managing partner and it is “expected that candidates such as Sonnenholzer, Perez, Herbas and Topic will support him.” This backing, however, is likely to materialise as a rejection of Correism, embodied by González. 

Noboa’s appeal to young voters, coupled with “his excellent presentation in the electoral debate” contributed significantly to his success. Beyond the prevalent security concerns that all candidates have addressed, Noboa’s agenda encompasses diverse areas, including revitalising Ecuador’s financial stability, fortifying social security, job creation, attracting investment, modernising agriculture and efficiently managing vital resources like electricity and water. Additionally, he has pledged to implement comprehensive security measures and address the much-needed judicial reform in the country. 

Villavicencio’s party stands in stark opposition to Correismo, with “many attributing his assassination to people close to Correa,” alleged the managing partner, although this remains unconfirmed. Consequently, it is increasingly likely that Villavicencio’s supporters and Assembly members will align themselves with Noboa. Should Noboa secure a place in the Assembly, the support of Villavicencio’s bloc “will be crucial to achieve the approval of laws necessary to overcome the difficult economic situation the country is going through.” 

Distinguishing the two candidates, Gonzáles and Noboa, reveals critical advantages and disadvantages for each. For Gonzáles, her proximity to Correa could hinder her chances, especially, as our sources in Quito revealed the “hard core [Correista] vote does not exceed 35%.” Statements against dollarisation, notably from her vice-presidential candidate, Andrés Aráuz, have met with mixed reactions, impacting Gonzáles’s candidacy negatively. 

“The hard core [Correista] vote does not exceed 35%.”

A managing partner at Almeida Guzmán Asociados, Ecuador

In contrast, Noboa’s youthful image, esteemed academic background (including Harvard credentials) and prior Assembly experience bolster his candidacy. His appeal to voters who “yearn for a better future will relate to a family man who superficially appears to be happy with his second wife,” the Ecuadorian lawyer explained. However, allegations from his first marriage, which are public knowledge within Guayaquil society, present a potential vulnerability that opponents may exploit during the campaign. 

As Ecuador braces itself for this pivotal presidential run-off, the nation’s future hangs in the balance. The results of this election will undoubtedly reverberate far beyond its borders, shaping the trajectory of Ecuador’s politics and society for years to come. 

 

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