By Nitya Chakraborty
With only three days left for the Presidential elections run off in the Latin American nation Ecuador on April 11, all indications suggest that the leftist candidate leading economist Andres Arauz is set to win the poll defeating his contender the conservative banker Guillermo Lasso. The latest opinion poll gives Arauz 37.87 votes as against Lasso’s 30.19 per cent.
The first round of Presidential elections was held on February 7 this year in which Arauz topped among more than dozen candidates but that was not enough to ensure him a straight win as per the laws of Ecuador, he had to go for a run off scheduled on April 11 to ensure a straight victory by majority of the votes polled. This time, both the media and the political parties feel that his present margin in the opinion poll is too wide to be breached by his conservative rival in the next three days before the polling.
Arauz is a protégé of former President Rafael Correa, who currently lives in Belgium. Correa was in power for 10 years until 2017, when he was succeeded by his ally, Lenin Moreno, who later became a bitter rival. In April 2020, a court in Ecuador sentenced Correa to eight years in prison in absentia for corruption. Correa’s party said that it was politically motivated just like Lula, former president of Brazil was sent to prison on charges which were later found concocted and he was released by the Supreme Court.
Correa handed over power to his ally Lenin Moreno in good faith but the new president after a gap turned against the left and under the pressure of the Ecua companies, changed the pro people policies of the Correa government which successfully implemented lot of measures to improve the lives of the poor people of the country.
President Moreno led the country to deep recession and the people’s lives standard deteriorated. The poor health care systems led to the spreading of the corona virus affecting mostly the underprivileged. Motreno’s popularity reached such low ebb that he did not contest in the presidential elections. Since Rafael Correa was barred from contesting, he nominated Arauz with a good record as a minister in his government as the presidential candidate.
The leftist candidate Andrés Arauz of the Union for Hope (Unión por la Esperanza—UNES) party took the top spot with 32.7 percent of the vote in the first round of Presidential elections..Arauz, a 36-year-old economist from Quito, would become Ecuador’s youngest president if successful in the runoff. He served as director of Ecuador’s Central Bank and then Minister of Knowledge and Human Talent under the in the first round administration of former president Rafael Correa (2007-2017) and is the heir apparent to Correa’s “citizens’ revolution.”
A second round between Arauz and Lasso has given the young economist a better shot at victory, as opinion polls show the people in general are fed up with right wing policies and they are looking for return of the welfare programmes of the earlier Correa regime. Like Correa, Arauz articulates a leftist and pro people ideology that could help rebuild the battered economy in Ecuador, simultaneously giving a boost to the left movement in Latin America. In fact, there is a big possibility that once Arauz wins on April 11, Correa will be back to the country and will start functioning as the advisor of Arauz
Ecuador’s Rafael Correa government introduced several important policy measures to address Indigenous demands in the country, without meaningfully including Indigenous peoples in the policy deliberations. Correa’s “citizens’ revolution” institutionalized the Indigenous movement’s political project while marginalizing the movement itself. Perhaps most controversial has been Correa’s vision of a socially responsible mining sector as the backbone of the country’s development which drew protests from Indigenous groups and leaders, including Yaku Pérez, whose territories stood in Correa’s way.
The leader of the indigenous movement Yaku Perez who contested the February 7 first round is very influential in his areas and he is known for social views which have many similarities with those of the Correa party. It is possible that all of Perez supporters will not vote for Arauz on April 11 but even if a small portion vote for him, that will be a big deal for Arauz. Perez has however declared that his movement will continue to agitate in support of their social demands even after the election of Arauz as president.
Ecuador is a country of firsts. It was the first country in Latin America to grant women the right to vote (1929). It was the first country to transition from authoritarianism to democracy (1979) as part of the region’s third wave of democratization. It was also the first country to experience a national Indigenous uprising (1990) in the contemporary era as well as to constitutionally recognize character of the state. The election of the left candidate as the new president of this nation on April 11 will be having a big impact on the remaining elections to eight countries in Latin America in 2021. (IPA Service)