Runoff Presidential Election in Ecuador

Photo(s) courtesy of WikiCommons, By Agencia de Noticias ANDES - LENIN MORENO, CC BY-SA 2.0, By Mabel Velástegui - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

On Feb. 17, 2019, Ecuador held general elections to nominate a new president into office.  With 40 percent of the popular vote needed in order to win the election, neither Vice president Lenin Moreno, receiving 39.36 percent of the electorate’s vote, or banker Guillermo Lasso, with 28.09 percent of the vote, reached the threshold to capture the presidency.  Both sides suggested fraud took place, putting pressure on Ecuador’s National Electoral Council to call for a runoff election; only Lasso and Moreno would participate as the two received the greatest portion of the popular vote.

 Incumbent Rafael Correa of the PAIS alliance, short for proud and sovereign fatherland, has served two terms, thus rendering him ineligible for another term. Correa stepping down from power marks yet another blow for the left not just in Ecuador, but also in South America as a whole.  Individuals emulated the leaders of revolution in the 1960s and 70s that are remembered by the electorate as Presidents bold enough to lead nations into relative prosperity by expanding infrastructure, elevating education, and creating subsidies for the needy.  However, the same leaders that were hailed as heroes often strong-armed media outlets creating a government with a semi-authoritarian leader at their helm.  The modern generation of leaders – including the likes of Hugo Chavez, Dilma Rousseff, and Kristina Fernandez de Kirchner – are no longer in office due to death, impeachment, and the people voting for a new leader.  

With revenue from oil, which during Correa’s time in office reached a value of 100 USD per barrel, Ecuador experienced prosperity until the decline in oil’s value caused Ecuador’s economy to grind to a halt. They have been experiencing an average annual growth rate of 4 percent from 2006 to 2014. According to the New York Times, Ecuador is expected to shrink 2.7 percent in 2017.  Whichever candidate emerges victorious from the runoff election will face the daunting task of attempting to rejuvenate a country’s economy that generated 25 billion USD,  when oil was most lucrative, to falling to a mere 11 billion with the steady decline in oil prices.   

Despite the success of the right in forcing a runoff election against the political party Correa founded, the failure to run a single candidate in the general election greatly hurt Lasso’s chances of winning the election outright.  However, the other candidate, journalist and politician Cynthia Viteri, has publicly stated on social media that she will back Lasso in the runoff election.  This is significant due to the edge Viteri’s supporters could give Lasso against a candidate who garnered 12 percent more of the popular vote.  Even if Lasso manages to win the runoff election PAIS remains a force in Ecuadorian politics despite the lack of support Correa has inspired in the last couple of years due to his aggressive style of leadership.