Moreno’s success in Ecuador’s presidential elections casts doubt over the future of democracy and the country’s economy, with implications for the region as a whole and particularly its current ally, Venezuela.
The elections: Round 2
On Sunday April 2, 2017, Ecuador held its second round of elections with the purpose of finally deciding who the next Ecuadorian president would be. After an inconclusive first round of elections, held on February 19, 2017, candidates Lenin Moreno, representing the current government party, Alianza PAIS, and Guillermo Lasso from the CREO party, faced each other on a runoff election round. Given the provisions under Ecuador’s Organic Electoral Law, which establishes that a presidential candidate must earn either 50% plus one votes, or at least 40% of votes and at least a 10% advantage over the next closest candidate, no candidate was deemed a winner during the February 19 elections, in which other candidates aside from Moreno and Lasso also participated; during the first round of elections, Moreno earned 39.35% of votes while Lasso earned 28.11% of votes.
The second round of presidential elections held this past Sunday April 2, 2017 resulted in thevictory of the current governing party, represented by candidate Lenin Moreno with 51.17%. Moreno, who was the former vice-president of Ecuador from 2007-2013 under current President Rafael Correa, ran for these presidential elections alongside current, and now future, vice-president Jorge Glas. Both candidates were hand-picked by current President Correa, who has been in power for a decade and has changed the Ecuadorian constitution several times in order to allow himself to retain power. Moreno’s victory in this sense represents a victory for Correa and a continuation of his hold on power.
Many factors have led to speculations about the transparency of the elections and vote count process that led to the victory of Lenin Moreno and Alianza PAIS. Candidate Lasso, along with his supporters, has already denounced the election process as fraudulent after a mysterious shut-down of the electoral website, which resulted in a sudden increase in votes for government-backed candidate Lenin Moreno. Lasso has in turn denounced electoral fraud before the Organization of American States’ (OAS) electoral commission. Likewise, protests have broken out in support of Lasso in two major cities, Quito and Guayaquil. Nonetheless, the OAS, as well as several other Latin American nations and the US, have recognized the election results. Despite the recognition of Moreno’s victory, his political term will be one marked by increased political polarization and a struggling economy.
Lenin Moreno’s victory in Ecuador has many implications both for the future of the country as well as the Latin American region as a whole. Moreno’s predecessor, Rafael Correa, has faced harsh criticism on several fronts due to his government policies as well as the duration of his mandate. As previously mentioned, Correa has changed the constitution several times in order to accommodate his policies, which have often been backed by other socialist leaders in the region, such as Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. The current situation in neighboring Venezuela has already shown the detrimental effects of authoritarianism and an a lack of institutionalism. Should Moreno follow in the footsteps of his predecessor, democratic institutions in Ecuador could be at risk, and the region may see the rise of yet another oil-money-backed authoritarian ruler.
Even if Moreno upholds democratic institutions and democratic processes, something that has already been questioned given the election process and results of this past April 2nd, 2017, his political affiliations will continue to have negative implications for his country and the region. Moreno’s campaign promises bow to expand on Correa’s social programs, which under the current economic conditions of the country, including its reliance on oil exports and the constraints of a dollarized economy, are unsustainable. While Lasso’s campaign promised a reduction in taxes and a reduction in government spending, Moreno’s policies will increase government expenditure, leading to increased debt and instability for Ecuador.
Moreover, many question whether Ecuador remains the political ally that Venezuela so desperately needs this point in time. The Venezuelan government is quickly losing its grip in power and resorting to extreme measures that have exacerbating an already-existing democratic, economic, and social crisis. The end of the Correa rule would have meant that the Venezuelan government was losing yet another ally in the region, undermining its hold on power. Unless Moreno steers away from his party’s affiliations and long-standing support for the Maduro regime, his victory will have detrimental consequences for the region at a crucial period in time.
Astrid Hasfura Dada is an Analyst at Global Risk Insights. As originally appears: http://globalriskinsights.com/2017/05/lenins-ecuador/