By Adriana Robreno
Chief Correspondent in Ecuador
The eight presidential contenders are touring the country in search of votes and even began these missionary activities before the National Electoral Council (CNE) gave the go-ahead.
The polls agree that Citizen Revolution (RC) candidate Luisa González, the only woman running for office, is the favorite to win the election, although the possibility of an Oct. 15 runoff is on the table, according to university professor Omar Maluk.
She is followed – not necessarily in that order – by Otto Sonnenholzner, who was Lenín Moreno’s vice president and resigned amid the Covid-19 pandemic, and Yaku Pérez, a candidate who finished third in 2021 with support for the indigenous movement and is now divided on his support.
They also want to reach the Carondelet Palace, Fernando Villavicencio, who many consider the most pro-government candidate of all, Jan Topic, who boasts that he was a mercenary and assures that he knows about security issues, and Xavier Hervas, who was also on the ballot two years ago.
At the bottom of the list, according to opinion polls, are former MP and businessman Daniel Noboa, who is backed by the Acción Democrática Nacional coalition, and Bolívar Armijos of the Amigo movement.
Although Ecuadorians hope to overcome the problems arising from the recent governments of Guillermo Lasso and Lenín Moreno by electing a president capable of addressing their concerns, skepticism prevails.
More than half of the population is still undecided about the August 20 elections, said Paulina Recalde, director of Perfiles de Opinión, one of Ecuador’s polling institutes.
In an interview for Teleamazonas, Recalde pointed out that the undecided number prevents him from confirming whether there will be a second round or not.
WHAT DO THE CANDIDATES PROPOSE?
Although there are eight candidates, in practice there are two tendencies, observers note.
According to sociologist Andrés Chiriboga, a group is proposing some sort of continuity, not necessarily with the same style and flaws of current President Guillermo Lasso, but it would only mean a change in power elites.
On the other hand, the analyst only welcomes a candidacy that proposes a model change to break with what Lasso did and return to “a decade where things were done differently,” in a nod to RC nominee González.
However, in an interview with the program En clave política on Telesur, Chiriboga clarified that this proposal by the Correísta movement needs to be reinvented, since the context is not the same as it was in 2007, when Rafael Correa came to power.
Insecurity and the economy are major concerns for Ecuadorians, who in recent years have witnessed an increase in the number of violent deaths to the highest level in history and the application of measures that benefit corporate groups and bankers in particular.
For this reason, those aspiring to the presidency are focusing their campaign proposals on these two issues, including some that are too broad to be implemented in just a year and a half in office, given that the elect will only rule until May 2025.
In interviews with local media and speeches to the public, Luisa González assures that in order to promote comprehensive measures, she will restore the so-called Ministry of Security Coordination and the Ministry of Justice, institutions dissolved by former President Moreno.
He also reiterated the need to give dignity to the National Police in order to confront crime with better salaries and conditions, while pointing to tackling the root causes of violence such as unemployment and lack of opportunities for young people.
For his part, Sonnenholzner speaks of “a collaboration with the private sector that will enable the implementation of best practices,” while Hervas proposes a reform of the organic law of the judiciary so that there are “faceless” judges for crimes such as hit men.
Meanwhile, Topic, whose motto is the fight “For an Ecuador without fear,” points out that it will face crime with a “strong hand,” and there are those who compare it to Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele.
Yaku Pérez recognized that to end insecurity it is also necessary to combat its causes and immediately proposed the use of technological equipment with artificial intelligence, permanent patrols and a reorganization of the prison system.
These are the intentions of some candidates with regard to security, one of the central axes of the presidential debate that will take place on Sunday 13 August.
PREPARING THE ELECTION DATE
The CNE is already preparing the packets of printed ballots while evaluating a plan B in the face of delays preventing the material from being sent to the provinces.
CNE Chair Diana Atamaint warned that the delay was in particular with ballots for Members of the National Assembly due to pending appeals at the Electoral Contentious Tribunal (TCE).
In a meeting with the press, the chairman of the body in charge of the elections pointed out that in the event that the resolution of legal resources in the TCE should take longer, there is an alternative since the election date (20 August) cannot be changed.
He explained that they could allocate a budget for the transportation of election materials to reach even the most remote locations that require longer travel times, such as the Galapagos Islands and some areas of the Amazon.
A total of 13.4 million Ecuadorians are called to vote, in which, in addition to the election of the president, the vice president and the 137 members of parliament, a referendum on oil production in the Yasuní National Park in the Amazon, one of the most biodiverse areas in the world, must be answered.
Those who live in the municipality of Quito, the country’s capital, must also set their criteria for mining activity in the Chocó Andino, a biosphere reserve in the rural area northwest of the city.
Although seemingly separate issues, the candidates’ opinions on these referendums are also part of the previous debate, particularly that related to the Yasuní.
While some believe it is necessary to keep the crude oil underground and no longer generate revenue from the sale of what is produced from Block 43 ITT in Petroecuador, others believe that it would be best to continue exploiting with the appropriate safety measures to avoid environmental disasters.
On August 20th, the citizens will have their say and on October 15th they will return to the polls if necessary.
According to those familiar with electoral issues, nothing has been said and the candidates must be placed at the level of the problems the country is going through and on which the population is concerned: security and the economy.