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Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Ecuador. Presidential elections on Sunday after a dangerous campaign

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After a campaign marked by violence, Ecuador’s 13 million eligible voters will decide the country’s future policy on Sunday in a presidential election scheduled early after the fall of right-wing President Guillermo Lasso’s cabinet. The favorite in the election is the left-wing candidate Luisa Gonzalez.

A week and a half before the vote, the murder of journalist Fernando Villavicencio, who decided to run for the highest office in the country, probably on behalf of one of the drug cartels, made the end of the campaign in an atmosphere of tension and uncertainty.

Rapid exacerbation of the political crisis

Guillermo Lasso, who took office as president Ecuador in May 2021, promising to modernize the country and open it wider to the world, he was forced to rule in a growing political crisis. Progress in strengthening the economy failed to stop the deepening economic stratification in society.

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Elections in EcuadorPAP/EPA/Jose Jacome

The president’s situation, as commentators emphasize, was not facilitated by the sharp polarization of the political class and the strong majority of the opposition in the National Assembly, which initiated the impeachment procedure against the head of state. To avoid this, Lasso, using his constitutional powers, dissolved parliament and declared early elections presidential elections in which he does not run.

However, the course of the election campaign led to a sharp exacerbation of the political crisis in the country and emboldened gangs, including drug gangs, to commit acts of violence on the streets of Ecuador’s cities and in prisons.

Big security issues

In 2022, compared to the previous year, the number of homicides in the country increased from 13 to over 25 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. “This is a statistic without precedent even in Latin America,” commented the media. Two out of three Ecuadorians, according to poll survey conducted by the Gallup Institute, “I do not feel safe going out on the street at night.”

President Lasso was forced to announce several times before the election state of emergency in several cities and provinces of the country, including in industrial Guayaquil.

On August 9, when Fernando Villavicencio was shot dead, the president declared a state of emergency in several provinces most threatened by drug gang terror. The day after the assassination, the National Electoral Council confirmed the election date and 53,000 people were sent to the streets. armed policemen and 43,000 soldiers.

Luisa Gonzalez enjoys the most support

According to the latest pre-election polls, Luisa Gonzalez enjoys the greatest support, described by the media as “the political heir of former President Rafael Correa”. Gonzalez, the candidate of the left-wing Civic Revolution, can count on about 30 percent of the vote. If the forecasts prove correct and she does not get an absolute majority, a second round of elections will take place, but – as the media comment – “anything is possible in Ecuador”.

Luisa Gonzalez, a presidential candidate in EcuadorPAP/EPA/Jose Jacome

Surprises are not excluded, because Gonzalez was relatively close to several more or less left-wing candidates in the polls, as well as entrepreneur Jan Topic, a supporter of the strong-arm policy, compared to the Salvadoran leader Nayib Bukele.

Main photo source: PAP/EPA/Jose Jacome

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