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ECUADOR
Ruling party won the first round of the election
Luis Ángel Saavedra
3/5/2017
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Votes casted for Lenín Moreno of the ruling party were not enough to avoid a runoff and will face right wing opposition leader Guillermo Lasso for the presidency.

Ruling party candidate Lenín Moreno won the first electoral round in Ecuador on Feb. 19 with 39.36 percent of the votes, but that was not enough to win the presidency in the first round as was anticipated by current President Rafael Correa and the top leaders of his Alianza País party, which has governed for the last 10 years.

In fact, Moreno needed to get 40 percent of the vote and hold a minimum 10 point lead over his nearest rival to win the presidency, in this case banker Guillermo Lasso, of the Creando Oportunidades (CREO) movement, who received 28.09 percent, according to official results.

The tight results forced the National Electoral Council (CNE) to not provide figures the night of the election, and postponed the announcement until they had a clear trend; something that Juan Pablo Pozo, the head of this organization, said could take up to three days.

Pozo’s announcement generated distrust among the followers of Lasso and in the political parties that, while acknowledging their defeat, announced their support for his candidacy in the second round. In different cities, especially in Quito and Guayaquil, the streets around the CNE buildings turned into points for protest, at times turning violent. The reason behind the demonstrations was the defense of the vote and of the democratic decision of Ecuadorians, which may have been violated by fraud if a victory by Moreno had been called in the first round.

“We fight for democracy, for the recognition of popular will,” said Social Christian leader Jaime Nebot, who did not want to team up with Lasso in the first round and preferred to back Cynthia Viteri, of the Partido Social Cristiano (PSC), who came in third place with 16.32 percent of the votes.

The possibility that the demonstrations degenerate into mayor violence led to the Joint Chiefs of the Armed Forces to hold an emergency meeting to analyze the situation and the possibility of being faced with a more  violent scenario. Meanwhile, the Council of Generals of the Army asked that the election results be respected “without any pressure or condition.”

In the meantime, vote counting progressed very slowly. In the afternoon of Feb. 21, Pozo informed that the trend signaled that a second round was to take place. With 97.7 percent of the ballots counted, that trend could not be reversed. The numbers he gave at that moment were 39.29 percent for Moreno and 28.27 percent for Lasso.

The appearance of Pozo was rejected by the ruling party. Moreno said that “the CNE is not there to speculate on trends, but to declare the final results”, adding that “the possibility to win in the first round remains intact.” Meanwhile, President Correa put in doubt the statement made by CNE and said: “If anyone should be mentioning fraud it should be Alianza País.”
In the end, the official results were revealed by the CNE on Feb. 22, confirming that Moreno and Lasso would face each other in a second round to be held on Apr. 2.

Meanwhile, the contest for the control of the National Assembly had its own side battle. Of the 137 assembly members (15 national, 116 provincial and six from abroad), the Citizen Participation Corporation, specialized in electoral projections and based on a quick count of real data, on the same night of Sunday 19, unofficially gave six of the 15 national and 51 of the provincial assembly members to Alianza País. To these 57 elected ruling-party assembly members would be added nine members obtained in alliances. However, these figures were modified as the counting by the CNE progressed.

With more than 90 percent of the count, the CNE gave the ruling party 74 of the 137 assembly seats, enough to again control the Assembly and have an absolute majority, something they can use to approve, modify or reject organic or ordinary laws.

Additionally, 55.12 percent of the voters voted in favor of the popular referendum, pushed by Correa, on whether the prohibition to have capital in tax heavens should be established for a person who intend to work as a public servant.

Indigenous movement with disastrous results
The indigenous movement participated in this electoral contest in a fragmented manner. Indigenous leaders made independent commitments with the political parties and did not follow the guidelines of the national organizations. They were also not able to introduce the indigenous agenda into the electoral debate.

The Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE), through the Pachakutik Movement, decided to join a center-left coalition, named the National Agreement for Change, led by the social democracy represented by the Izquierda Democrática Party. The candidate for this group, General Paco Moncayo, only received 6.7 percent of the vote.

The Pachakutik Movement obtained four assembly seats, bringing their total to 3 percent of the Assembly membership and will not have a great impact. The Amazonia turned its back on the indigenous candidates and chose to support the CREO and Alianza País candidates.

Moncayo made the announcement that he will not support either of the candidates who go on to the second round and that each of the organizations that were members of the National Agreement for Change will have to decide on their own whether they will support or not one of the two candidates. CONAIE made a not so clear announcement last Feb. 22 when they said that they will not support continuity or the consolidation of capitalism.

“CONAIE, embracing its history of struggle rejects both the old right (CREO and PSC) as well as the new elite grouped in Alianza País as they do not represent the interests of the peoples and nationalities. Our objectives of struggle are: Defense and construction of a real democracy; An equitable economy; Mining and oil moratorium and the start of a national debate process regarding non-extractive economic models; Amnesty to those social activists who are prosecuted and jailed; The real construction of plurinationality; Agrarian reform and democratization of water management; Free entry to universities and the reconstruction of bilingual intercultural education,” the statement reads.

Special mention needs to be made regarding the events in San Carlos, Limón Indantza canton, in the province of Morona Santiago, where the Shuar community of Nankintz was settled, and who were violently evicted in August of last year to give way to the mining project of the Chinese company Explor Cobres SA (EXSA).

According to a report to Latinamerica Press by Spanish journalist Alba Crespo Rubio, “in this parish is where the Shuar communities of Cutucú, Marbella, San Pedro de Apondios and Tsuntsuim were supposed to vote. Some 150 people, but all the voters did not arrive as San Carlos remains guarded by five police controls and the area is now militarized, despite the fact that the state of emergency that was imposed by the government on Dec. 14, 2016, ended on Feb. 14 of this year.”

When the population of Tsuntsuim was evicted, they had to leave their belongings there, and among them were their identification documents that they have been unable to recover and therefore could not vote. Also, many of these people are now taking refuge in other Shuar communities, especially in the community of Tiink, far from San Carlos.

Also, most of the electorate in these communities is being persecuted by the State as a result of the confrontations in Nankintz, and they have not dared to vote in an area with such a high police and military presence. Of all the people from Tsuntsuim who are allowed to vote, only seven of them, all women, have casted their vote, having had to walk some six hours from Tiink.

Polarized country
The second round will be difficult. The alliances that Moreno and Lasso have has achieved so far does not guarantee them a victory as there is no sign now of a significant gap between the vote that each candidate could reach.

Angel Polibio Córdova, CEO of CEDATOS polling firm, announced that Lasso, in the week following the first round had already reached 52.1 percent of the vote intention from decided voters, with 19 percent of still undecided voters. A similar poll conducted by the Social Research Center contradicts the survey conducted by CEDATOS and gives 52.9 percent to the ruling party candidate.

Although the two candidates assure that change will take place, it is improbable that Moreno could accomplish this, as he would be inheriting 10 years of a government with authoritarian undertones and a permanent increase of foreign debt, something that his government would have to start paying back during his term, forcing him to reduce the state investment and cut government jobs. On the opposite side, the change proposed by Lasso is not that clear, as his position as a banker and his closeness to neoliberal ideas could turn the country towards the past, and this generates many doubts on those who do not want a continuation of Correa, but also do not want the country to submerge deeper into neoliberalism.

In his favor, Moreno has a character that is more of a negotiator, but the leadership of Alianza País will remain steadfast in the government and in the National Assembly. Lasso, meanwhile, has signed commitments with different social sectors, and has the indigenous agenda in his government program, but he has yet to explain how he will combine a neoliberal agenda with respect to indigenous rights. The Ecuadorian population will head to the polls in this second round with more doubts than certainties. —Latinamerica Press.


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In the militarized town of San Carlos, Limón Indantza, the Shuar did not go out to vote because of fear. / Alba Crespo Rubio
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