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Election Results Force Correa to Reconsider Strategy

By: María Gabriela Díaz - Feb 28, 2014, 8:15 am

EspañolOn Sunday, February 23, Ecuadorians went to the polls to elect 5,651 officials in various provinces, municipalities, and counties. Although the elections concluded without any major complication, the official results have been delayed due to technical issues in processing data from electronic voting machines. That being said, the results of the preliminary count have determined that the ruling party is in for a bittersweet outcome.

The official party of Present Rafael Correa, PAIS Alliance, considered the results of the election a “step backwards.” After losing in the major cities of Guayaquil, Cuenca, and the capital Quito, President Correa stated, “We’ve had a major step backwards in the capital that we need to analyze.”

According to the preliminary results provided by the National Election Center (CNE), Mauricio Rodas, the opposition candidate from the SUMA party in the race for mayor of Quito, received 68.66 percent of the vote. Augusto Barrera, the PAIS candidate and a favorite of Correa, gained 38.04 percent. In Guayaquil, early count results positioned the opposition’s candidate for mayor Jaime Nebot — up for reelection — above ruling party candidate Viviana Bonilla.

Candidate Augusto Barrera (left) with President Rafael Correa (right).
Candidate Augusto Barrera (left) with President Rafael Correa (right).

Weeks before the election, Correa urged his supporters to vote for Barrera. He expressed his desire in two separate letters that emphasized a vote for Barrera would in turn be a vote for him and the “citizen revolution.”

July Clavijo, public policy adviser at the National Assembly in Ecuador, considers the result in Quito a “punishment vote” towards the ruling party candidate.

“The current mayor, Augusto Barrera, had a lot of resistance. He had a poor tenure as mayor, full of problems like excessive fines, lack of solutions for mobility, security issues — it created a strong vote for the opposition. Rodas won because he capitalized on that. There was a greater sense of voting against the ruling party candidate, than in favor of Rodas.”

With regard to the loss in the capital specifically, Correa admitted that it was “very painful to lose Quito at the hands of the right.” He went on to say that he felt the ruling party has been “stagnating” recently, and that it may have been about time to have been given a jolt. He clarified the disappointment he expressed in losing the capital by adding, “We continue to be the primary political force in the country.”

Betty Tola, Ecuador’s secretary of political management, stressed that PAIS held on to 10 of the 23 governor seats, 60 of the 220 mayors, and together with allies in the Socialist and Avanza parties, won 120 municipalities.

Of the ten largest cities based on population, PAIS managed to secure only one with a victory in Durán. The results are a stark contrast to the previous round of elections in 2009 when the ruling party won mayor seats in 10 capital cities. In those elections, ruling party candidates Augusto Barrera and Paúl Granda, won in Quito and Cuenca, respectively.

In Guayaquil and Cuenca, the analysis of results differs from Quito. According to Clavijo, victory in Guayaquil was hard from the beginning for the ruling party because of the high popularity of Nebot, now reelected as mayor. “To defeat Nebot, someone with proven results was needed,” said Clavijo. “The city of Guayaquil is not so bad, there have been improvements in many respects to how it was in the past.”

Clavijo also considers the loss in Cuenca to be more symbolic for the PAIS Alliance than anything else. “In Cuenca, fatigue with the ruling party is felt and local alliances were the main reason that gave the opposition favorable results. In Cuenca, historically a bastion for PAIS, is where fatigue with the government is seen most vividly,” explains Clavijo .

Following the results, Fabian Solano, director of the Socialist Party, proposed an alliance between the three parties under the umbrella of the Broad Front of the Left in Ecuador. “Now is the time for the Left to change, to unite,” Solando declared and reaffirmed his support for the Citizen’s Revolution as led by Correa.

For its part, the National Electoral Council applauded the level of participation during these elections, as abstention dropped to 16 percent, compared to 26.9 percent in 2009.

Correa Reconfigures His Cabinet

Vice President Jorge Glass stated he believed the results of the election demonstrated a strengthening of the left, and was encouraged by the support received from the Socialist and Avanza parties. However, President Correa has taken the results to mean the ruling party may be suffering from within, and has announced changes to his cabinet that will take effect after the festivities of Carnaval.

While not a presidential election, these results have provided a clear indication of how the public perceives the effectiveness of the ruling party and its “citizen revolution.”

Clavijo believes the results reflect an accumulation of problems over the years that has now translated into an erosion of government.

“The issue regarding Bonil [the censored cartoonist], Correa supporting Venezuela (which many people disliked), the issue of the Yasuní (the approval of its exploitation), the issue of COIP (the Internal Penal Code). These factors have also contributed to the disenchantment and frustration with Correaism and the PAIS Alliance.” Clavijo contends that the influence of the PAIS Alliance has also been weakened by the rise of new parties like Avanza, and opposition like CREO and SUMA.

In addition, Clavijo believes Correa’s hope was that his own popularity would be enough to convince the public to vote for candidates who were not as popular. “The logic behind some of these local elections is very different than that of national elections. In local elections, people tend to vote based on proven management skills, but PAIS counted on known or fairly well-known candidates — backed by the president — to be enough to win mayor or governor’s seats.”

Despite the results, Correa has three years until the next presidential election to change his strategy and continue as leader of his political party. Clavijo believes that the new political map being drawn in Ecuador is not so clear for Correa’s party.

“We’ll have to see if they take the time to reflect on this, engage in some self-criticism and correct their path, or if on the other hand, they radicalize the revolution. Above all, we’ll have to see if the parties that were strengthened in these elections take advantage of this win and gain momentum heading into 2017.”

Translated by Guillermo Jimenez.

María Gabriela Díaz María Gabriela Díaz

María Gabriela Díaz reported from Caracas, Venezuela, and led the PanAm Post internship program. She has a Bachelor of Arts in political science with a focus in international affairs.