By Circles Robinson
HAVANA TIMES – Ecuador holds general elections on Sunday to elect a new president and 137 legislators. Current president Lenin Moreno did not seek reelection.
According to the polls, the leading candidate among the 16 contenders is Andres Arauz, a former economy minister. Arauz served under former president Rafael Correa who was disqualified from running for VP on that ticket.
Projections show Guillermo Lasso a conservative ex-banker the probable runner-up followed by the indigenous/environmentalist candidate Yaku Perez.
To win the elections on the first round a candidate must obtain at least 40% of the vote and be 10% ahead of the second-place finisher. If that doesn’t happen a runoff will take place on April 11 among the top two candidates.
Ecuador faces extreme economic troubles after nearly a year of Covid-19 and the loss of some 15,000 lives. President Lenin Moreno, who replaced Correa in 2017, is highly criticized for his handling of the pandemic.
The main candidates
Arauz, a protege of Correa, has promised to increase social spending and make $1 billion in direct cash payments to families. He also promises to renege on the conditions of a $6.5 billion IMF financing package signed by Moreno, reported Al Jazeera. The economist says he will see that large companies pay higher taxes under stricter State regulations.
Meanwhile, Lazzo, a free-market advocate, promises to take a hardline approach to corruption. Correa himself was found guilty in 2020 of violating campaign finance laws. Lasso proposes an international anti-corruption commission. He is expected to maintain the austerity policies, adopted by Moreno to obtain IMF loans. Likewise, he plans to seek greater foreign investment and increase oil production, the country’s leading export.
Yaku Perez is the first Indigenous presidential contender in 15 years, notes Al Jazeera. If he finishes third as expected his support will take on an important roll in a runoff election between Arauz and Lasso.
Profits of an oil boom during the Correa presidency (2007-2017) dried up under Moreno as the price of crude crashed.
Moreno saw the national debt rise from 26 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) to 44 percent during his term.
Like many countries in the region, Ecuador faces hard times with greater unemployment, and a contracted economy.
If Arauz wins the elections, it could mean a resurrection of Rafael Correa in Ecuadorian politics. Correa’s main allies when in office were Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Argentina. The former president lives currently with his wife in Belgium.
The newly elected president takes office on May 24th.