Ecuadorian politics are a game of Russian roulette
As a consequence of hate speech, violence, corruption, authoritarianism, and social media misuse/abuse from various candidate campaigns, Ecuador is currently polarized between "XXI century socialists" (rumored to be linked and financed by Cuba, Venezuela, narco-mafias, and Guerrillas), and "semi-conservative liberals" (rumored to be linked to corporate interests, and conspiracies that led to the banking holiday and economic crash in the year 2000). Some would say it’s a lesser of two evils scenario.
To my knowledge, all politicians in Ecuador are and have been populism inclined, with notable cases of corruption and mass rioting, as the battle for the swing is often fought over winning the rural and poor electorate, which composed over 35% of Ecuador's population in 2019. Campaign promises are usually not kept, as day to day management and corruption scandals are evident across almost all government periods. Moreover, this deception is quickly forgotten both by the electorate and the justice system, amplifying the people's disdain towards election results and trust in candidates.
Hence, the day-to-day-living populace that will always tend to resent the latest president, will wish for a change at the end of that period. A populist offering such change can easily take advantage of this dissatisfaction, demonizing and blaming prior leaders or specific groups. The cycle has repeated itself endlessly, only aggravating entrenched political influence has rooted themselves into.
A diluted 2020 election
This election cycle is different for Ecuador. You see, the amount of dispersion across 16 candidates (historic record by far), the lack of a strong counter-offer to XXI-century socialism, and recent murders and alarms over press freedom, deepening post-covid economic crisis, rumored to be linked to narco-terrorism and corruption, bring real fear of uncertainty to the population.
The breed of socialism you see in Ecuador is not the same as the one displayed by, say, AOC or Bernie. The breed of capitalism is also far from what you would see in, say, Biden or Trump.
Where do the two main presidential candidates for Ecuador fall?
A good way to map this is on the other axis of the Political Compass. A quick exercise estimated from the candidates’ responses and interviews easily classifies them as authoritarian vs. liberal/libertarian.
Andrés Aráuz, whose campaign was openly endorsed by former president Rafael Correa, by appearing in many of his streams, providing his image for most of the marketing collateral, and personally appearing and supporting him on online streams, can be seen as a continuation to Correa’s policies and political style.
Correa, currently residing in Belgium and declared guilty of corruption, was historically authoritarian, with attacks to press and freedom of speech and statization of private entities. His government was also protectionist of Ecuador’s trade economy, meaning high tariffs for exports, high taxes, an interest in an economy the government can drive, and evaluate for daily transactions (electronic currencies that run in parallel to the dollar, for example). Aráuz seems to be the preferential candidate for some LGBTI activists. On international agreements, Aráuz intends not to comply with recent agreements with the IMF. Many Ecuadorians who still quietly support Correa, may shift the election towards Aráuz.
Guillermo Lasso, on the other hand is a social and conservative libertarian, meaning his leadership would preserve catholic values with a free market, low taxes, and low tariffs approach.
This is Lasso's second attempt at a presidency facing socialism, after losing the battle against Lenin Moreno in 2017. He has mentioned on interviews that, despite him disagreeing with recreational marijuana, some LGBTI rights, gun ownership rights for self defense, and abortion, he would subject to the electorate’s preference via popular referendum. As a former owner of the Bank of Guayaquil, he is rumored to be linked to the 2000 bank holiday.
Lasso is currently tied to Jaime Nebot, leader of the Partido Social Cristiano (Social-Christian Party) in an effort to consolidate votes against XXI-century socialists. Jaime Nebot has been both widely criticized and lauded for his efforts and management as former mayor of Guayaquil, and has been a long time Correa opponent. On international agreements, Lasso would not disavow the recent IMF deal.
The risk of a single-round election
Most polls show that Aráuz may be leading the presidential race. Companies like CEDATOS showed Lasso's as the leading party in . However, some polls estimate a wide range of 35 to 60% rate of undecideds.
This poses a great risk for a single round election. You see, according to Article 161 on the "Ley Orgánica Electoral, Código de la Democracia", Ecuador's electoral law, the winning party needs to amass 51% of all valid votes, OR a 10% difference over the next party (having amassed over 40% of the total valid votes). Blank votes are attributed as valid votes to the leading party, and nullified voted are not considered valid.
Polls from past elections have not been trustworthy predictors of the final outcome. However, it would be safe to say that Yaku Perez, Isidro Romero, Lucio Gutiérrez and the other 11 candidates may amass over 25% of the electorate.
If this 25% were to split evenly, victory may go to Aráuz. This has led to concerns across the non-socialist supporting Ecuadorians, and the over half a million Venezuelans who migrated to Ecuador seeking haven or try to cross over to Peru amid tightened migratory requirements.
How outside influence can affect voter bias
Corruption took center stage in Ecuador in the past decade, culminating in a disastrous covid-19 preparedness. After lock down, the popular opinion was easily steered through online sources.
This has been exacerbated by the rampant spread of fake news and state-sponsored troll center campaigns, and false accusations. Many Ecuadorians fail to see that biased "independent media" is another vast problem.
This is further aggravated by questionable state owned media sources from other jurisdictions, including the Venezuelan Telesur, Russian RT News, CCP owned China Daily, Right-biased Truth Uncensored, Fox, Daily Telegraph, Left-biased CNN, Jacobin and US National News, Saudi Arab News, among many others, promote politically biased opinions, citing convenient evidence and propaganda.
Personal opinion and disclaimer
This is an article for english speakers who are seeking historical context for the Ecuadorian elections, as well as for expats who are now nationals.
I believe transparent and honest management with a strong judiciary system can beat entrenched political parties in Latin America, and my vote is based on the path that I believe will take us there.
As an Ecuadorian who
- voted for Correa twice (and regret voting for him in his second period),
- lived in Ecuador during both of Correa’s governments and the 2000 crisis that led to dollarization, and
- has heard rational arguments from both sides of the spectrum.
I pick Lasso over Aráuz for the 2020 election, for arguments that include but are not limited to the ones in this post. My recommendation to anyone who asks is the same.
Looking at past linkage evidences for several candidates, the rooted corruption of certain groups and families, and potential country risk, Lasso is an obvious rational choice for strategic, long-term prosperity in the country.
Other candidates may not gain enough traction and could dilute the vote against the leading competitor, so they’re beyond the scope of consideration in this view.
If you are reading this and wish to improve your quality of life prospects in the country, I would advise you to support Lasso as well.
To each their own, however. If you are an Ecuadorian citizen with a duty to vote, you are free to disagree and support whomever you choose, just as you are responsible for the cascading outcomes of your actions.