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News Analysis: Ecuador to hold general elections in fragmented political landscape
From:Xinhua  |  2021-02-02 16:43

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QUITO, Feb. 2 (Xinhua) -- Ecuador is heading towards general elections scheduled for Feb. 7, in which 16 candidates are vying for the presidency amid a fragmented political landscape.

According to observers, there has yet to be a consolidated political tendency, with splintered parties too small to represent a large portion of the population, and many of them are thus relying on temporary alliances to gather votes.

The fact that so many parties are in the running reflects Ecuador needs a political reform, especially given the approval ratings of some even lower than 1 percent, Juan Paz y Mino, an Ecuadorian political analyst and historian, told Xinhua.

In the elections, two historical economic models are at stake, namely "a neoliberal economic business model and a social economy model," he said.

Accordingly, there are two leading presidential hopefuls, with former banker and conservative candidate Guillermo Lasso representing the first model, and progressive candidate Andres Arauz representing the second, he said.

According to nine recent polls up to Jan. 23, Arauz, the candidate of the Union for Hope Alliance, which gathers left-leaning parties, leads with 37.4 percent of support among voters.

The 35-year-old politician and economist has the backing of former Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa, in whose government Arauz served as the coordinating minister of knowledge and human talent.

Meanwhile, Lasso, with 24.3 percent of voter support, is the candidate of a right-wing alliance between the Creando Oportunidades movement and the Christian Social Party, which has its stronghold in the port city of Guayaquil, an important economic center.

It is Lasso's third run for the presidency, after he lost the 2013 race to Correa, and the 2017 race to incumbent President Lenin Moreno.

To win the first round, a candidate must get at least 40 percent of the vote with a 10-point lead over the second candidate. With so many candidates competing, there will likely be a runoff vote on April 11, Paz said.

Trailing in third place with 15.1 percent of approval is Yaku Perez, an indigenous leader and environmental activist representing the Pachakutik Plurinational Unity Movement, the political arm of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador.

According to international relations and political science expert Enrique Crespo, Perez aims to draw the progressive vote "that does not identify with Correa-ism and capitalize on the vote of those who are not satisfied or do not feel represented by the candidacies of Arauz and Lasso."

Paz agrees that a victory for Arauz would mean the return of "Correa-ism" and the ex-president's progressive proposals.

Paulina Recalde, a political analyst and director of private polling firm Profiles of Opinion, told local press that Arauz has an advantage in attracting the "historic diehard vote of the so-called Citizen Revolution," a political movement Correa spearheaded over a decade in power.

In that sense, the elections are likely to gauge the level of support for Correa's legacy, said Recalde.

Despite the approaching of the elections, the latest survey by private pollster Cedatos revealed notable voter apathy and indecision, as a whopping 62 percent of voters said they are undecided and many are even uninformed about the candidates.

Polibio Cordova, the director of Cedatos, told reporters only 30 percent of the population tuned in to the mandatory debate among the 16 candidates on Jan. 16 and 17.

A Cedatos survey showed people's greatest concerns were the economic situation, lack of employment and the health crisis of COVID-19.

With over 250,000 coronavirus cases and about 15,000 deaths Ecuador has registered as of Tuesday morning, the National Electoral Council has put strict social distancing measures in place for the election day to prevent voters from contracting the virus, and strives to ensure that the absenteeism rate would not go above the historical average of 25.6 percent. Enditem