Alejandro Rengel es investigador de la Fundación Ecuador Libre
Something impossible for many was achieved in Ecuador on February 19th: the candidate of the opposition Guillermo Lasso reached a second round or ballot. Definitively, the situation is glimpsed as one of the hardest knocks to the Government of the Citizens’ Revolution. Lasso obtained 28.3% of the votes. It’s been made clear that 61% of Ecuadorians voted for an opposition which represents them. There is an air of changes in what could be the most important elections in Ecuador since the return of democracy in 1980.
The road to the second round and the great leap
Lasso’s campaign started in 2010 with his first journeys around Ecuador. Nevertheless, the concern of participating in politics is prior to this, and he had his first underpinning in 2015 with the creation of the think tank Free Ecuador Foundation, which objective is to promote public policies based on principles of freedom. With this organization and the political movement Creating Opportunities (CREO), the participation of Lasso and his political project materialized in the presidential and legislative elections of 2013.
The result was positive. He got the second place and a legislative bench which has implemented diverse draft laws before the Assembly and has consistently denounced every project or Government actions against the freedoms and the economic welfare of the Ecuadorians. Thanks to this continued campaign and to the proposal of one million jobs in four governance years, it was possible to go, with regard to the 2013 elections, from 11 to 33 deputies in the National Assembly and from 22 to 28.3% of the votes of the electorate.
What’s behind the electoral process?
The night of Sunday, February 19, Juan Pablo Pozo, president of the National Electoral Council (competent election authority), affirmed that three more days were needed to count the votes and decree a run-off election, after Lenin Moreno got 38.5% of the votes and Guillermo Lasso around 30% with the counting at 80%. This made citizens summon up to defend democracy, their own rights and demand transparency on the electoral process. Democracy was respected thanks to the great demonstration of civism and citizen organization. Nevertheless, the performance of Pozo and the facts that surround him produce, at least, suspicions so that the citizens are even more attentive in the run-off election.
Guillermo Lasso will have to overcome diverse challenges to win the presidency. Among these, capitalize with a unifying discourse 61% of the votes of the Ecuadorians who didn’t go for his rival Lenín Moreno. To this effect, he will have to respond to the preoccupation of thousands of public servants and beneficiaries of social projects in health and educations matters, worried about losing their jobs and benefits respectively. He will have to respond to a dirty and fierce campaign supported by the state machinery, which gave indications of its nature with protests in front of the bench which the candidate chaired due to alleged hate speeches from people of his party. And if that wasn’t enough, he needs to strengthen the net of electoral control volunteers which unfolded in the first round. The way is still uphill, but if they consider it, the objectives can be achieved.
Between democracy and authoritarianism
This April 2nd, Ecuador could sum up to the group of countries which, like Peru, Argentina and Brazil, have abandoned the left populist policies and they present an alternative based on the Rule of Law, entrepreneurship, trade between countries and an economy with a solid private company. Winning the elections would mean overcoming the previously mentioned challenges and capitalizing 61% of Ecuadorians who didn’t vote for the governing party. Ecuador is not in front of simple elections. What is at stake goes over an electoral dispute of CREO versus PAIS Alliance. Actually, the ones clashing are democracy versus dictatorship, change versus continuity, freedom versus oppression, development versus failure.
Since Ecuador could be the next country putting one more stone in the grave of the “Socialism of the 21st Century”, the electoral process must be observed by the entire world. The possible victory of Guillermo Lasso would be a triumph for Ecuador and for all of us who believe in democracy and freedom and fundamental values in our nations.