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Will the left in Ecuador buck the downward regional trend?

22 0 23
09.01.2017

Incumbents have been having a tricky time in elections of late but the opposition is far from united against Lenín Moreno

Though recent elections in the world have been a setback to incumbent parties, the presidential election in Ecuador scheduled for February 19 might defy that trend. The candidate from the left-wing Alianza País incumbent coalition is leading the race. Though he will probably be forced into a runoff, where the divided opposition will have an opportunity to rally behind a single candidate, former vice-president Lenín Moreno is the man to beat in Ecuador.

When Ecuadoreans vote to elect a new president and the 137 members of the unicameral Assembly, the name of President Rafael Correa will not be on the ballot for the first time since he became president in early 2007. The outspoken, energetic and somewhat authoritarian left-wing economist, who has led Ecuador for 10 years, will step down after completing his second term in office since the new Constitution was enacted in 2008.

As president, Correa has radically transformed his country. After winning the 2006 election, he led a push for a new constitutional convention. His overwhelming victory in that election gave his Alianza País coalition a commanding majority in the constitutional assembly. Correa custom-made a Constitution that reflected his left-wing agenda.

A combination of new inclusive, progressive politics (including indigenous rights, but — given Correa’s conservative Catholic values — the agenda was less amenable to gay marriage or abortion rights) and old-style state-centred industrial policy, Correa’s vision for Ecuador was often grouped together with other left-wing leaders in the region, led by Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez. Yet, with a PhD in Economics from the University of Illinois, Correa had a more developed plan for economic development, led by government spending in education, health, infrastructure and social programmes. Poverty reduction initiatives, financed by the profits from oil exports, helped to bring millions out of poverty. Spending on education and infrastructure boosted productivity. And despite his rhetoric, Correa kept the US dollar as the national currency, thus his government was somewhat fiscally constrained (though cheap access to credit allowed the government to run budget deficits for most of the period).

Correa also displayed some authoritarian traits. His fights with the press were recurrent. But Ecuadoreans seemed not to care much. In the 2013 elections, Correa easily won re-election with 57 percent of the vote. His Alianza País coalition holds 100 of the 137 seats in the unicameral National Assembly. The economy expanded significantly under his watch, with an average of 4.5 percent growth between 2007 and 2015. For most of his.....