Left or right?

Ecuador heads to the polls amidst distrust of political class but will populism prevail?

2020 was a political roller-coaster in Latin America with almost every country in the region suffering some form of political or social crisis. These problems have been compounded by the severe health and economic crises presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The result is that many people across Latin America have lost faith in their governments and are now desperately seeking change at any cost. It is in this environment of distrust that the region enters a new year with many elections. The exasperation of the people has raised concerns that radical, populist candidates making ridiculous promises might actually get elected!

First up, we have the first electoral round to elect the President and Vice President of Ecuador and representatives of the National Assembly.

A senior lawyer in Quito reports, “There are more than 12 candidates, one for everyone’s taste. However, the three candidates with the greatest chance, according to the polls, are 1) Andrés Arauz, a protégé of former left-wing president Rafael Correa; 2) Guillermo Lasso, a right-wing banker and 3) Yaku Pérez, an activist in favour of indigenous rights and against mining.”

The latest views among political analysts predict that Arauz and Lasso will move on to the second round that will take place in April 2021.

The people are calling for the return of government subsidies and social investment, hardly surprising given the level of unemployment and economic hardship; this would put Arauz as the favourite. A political analyst agrees with this, “Lasso has 40 million to spend on the campaign, while Arauz has infinite resources since he has the support of AMLO, Fernández, and Venezuela.”

“Lasso has 40 million to spend on the campaign, while Arauz has infinite resources since he has the support of AMLO, Fernández and Venezuela.”

Political analyst, Quito

An Arauz victory with Correa returning as an adviser could sabotage Ecuador’s recent progress wooing international businesses and investors. According to our sources, the principle risks are firstly, the threat of dropping the US dollar as Ecuador’s currency and secondly the country not honouring commitments made to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). An Ecuadorian business executive despairs, “Losing the dollar and defaulting on the IMF are very real risks with Arauz and Correa, with this Ecuador will lose all credibility.”

“Losing the dollar and defaulting on the IMF are very real risks with Arauz and Correa, with this Ecuador will lose all credibility.”

Business Executive, Ecuador

Finally, it would not be a Latin American election without some claim of fraud or corruption. To this end, in mid-December, the Public Prosecutor’s Office began investigations against the National Electoral Council (CNE) and the Contentious Electoral Tribunal (TCE). According to President Moreno, electoral norms are being violated and parties are being allowed to participate whose leaders are in jail or wanted internationally for corruption based on promises that they will be pardoned.

Will Ecuador follow Argentina and Bolivia by electing the protégé (some may say puppet) of a former leftist President or will they move towards the conservative banking millionaire, Lasso? We’ll be watching.

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