Following in the footprints of Venezuela some years ago, Ecuador, after having approved a new Constitution and established a new political course, is getting ready to submit all State posts to a new popular vote under a new institutional framework. So it is that after two years, the country is voting again on the 26th April, this time not because of popular uprisings or breathtaking presidential topplings, but to endorse President Rafael Correa and his political project.
Correa should win the Presidency at the first round, with a percentage close to 50% according to various polls. The electoral law provides for the direct election with the 40% of consensus and a 10% margin on the first opponent already. The opposition, represented by the former President Lucio GutiÃ©rrez, and the banana tycoon, Ãlvaro Noboa (the latter making his fourth consecutive electoral challenge), maintains some pockets of popularity, but their failure to reach an agreement on a single candidacy has split the anti-Correa vote, and both GutiÃ©rrez and Noboa are estimated to achieve only about 15% of the vote each.
Problems for Correa could come from two other fronts: parliamentary elections and local elections. The complex electoral system does not guarantee a parliamentary majority to the elected President (a system that Correa wants to implement for next elections) and exposes the executive to a legislature in permanent disagreement. This phenomenon, partly attributable to the division between the MPs elected nationally and those at a regional level as well as the volubility of the electorate and the proliferation of small parties, has had in the past extremely painful consequences, from the bargaining of votes to institutional instability.
Correa has made clear that he will dissolve a parliament which does not reflect the executive, a prerogative granted by the Constitution, but that would involve a call to new general elections. It is evident that Correa does not intend to be bound by pacts that would alter his political programme, breaking in this way with the transformist example of his predecessors, often obliged to change route to look for a variety of parliamentary backups. At the same time though, this is also the price paid for the missed opportunity to build a solid governing party, which in the last few months has moved at a different speed to that of the President. Indeed Correa’s popularity is not matched by an equally high liking for his movement, which runs the risk of not being able to command a majority in the National Assembly.
The other front of preoccupation are local elections, where other logics may have a stronger impact on the electorate. Of particular importance will be the result of the vote in the city of Guayaquil and its region Guayas. The mayor of Guayaquil Jaime Nebot, an exponent of the darkest right of the country, levers on the pharaonic programmes of urban regeneration put in place in the last few years to foster parochial and autonomist feelings among the population. Despite the tones are much calmer than those of the representatives of the Bolivian ‘half moon’, the risk is that a victory of Nebot may accentuate the autonomistic discourse and create big problems for the national government.
Once elected, Correa will have to face enormous challenges including delivering on the promise of an agrarian reform, and dealing with the economic crisis, which is hitting Ecuador quite badly, in terms of employment and state budget reduction. The orientation of the new government will partly depend on the outcome of the parliamentary elections and the already announced internal settlements within Correa’s movement, where various factions have been fighting for the hegemony for a long time. The distancing of some social movements from Correa’s platform has taken away some important cadres from the process of the ‘Citizens Revolution’ and the idea of ‘Socialism for the 21st Century’ to which Correa often refers, precipitating the rise of those groups least inclined to a radicalisation of the process.
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This post was written by Samuele Mazzolini