The campaign for city and provincial offices is reaching a fevered pitch leading up to Sunday’s election and, even though he is not running for office, the stakes are high for President Rafael Correa.
Under Ecuadorian law, all campaigning must end at midnight on Thursday, 48 hours ahead of election day.
The most hotly contested race in the country is for mayor of Quito, where incumbent Augusto Barrera is trailing challenger Mauricio Rodas in two polls. Barrera, who appeared to have a comfortable lead only two weeks ago admits to making mistakes that have hurt his campaign.
Barrera said his recent closure of 62 community police stations was an “honest mistake.” The move has led to higher crime rates in many of the neighborhoods where the stations were located.
President Rafael Correa has campaigned hard for Berrera, who is a member of the president’s PAIS party. “If Rodas is elected, we will see a return to the right-wing politics that devastated this country in the past,” Correa said. “The very existence of the Citizens’ Revolution will be at risk.”
Several election observers contend that Correa has violated campagin rules by mixing his official role as president with that of political partisan, a claim the president rejects.
Cuenca’s mayoral race is another tight contest, according to political observers. Current mayor and PAIS candidate Paúl Granda is being challenged by former mayor Marcelo Cabrera. While Granda stakes much of his reputation on the new light rail system currently under construction, Cabrera considers it a “novelty” and is proposing a $300 million ring road that would divert traffic from the city center.
Correa said last week he would visit Cuenca this week to campaign for
Granda but it is unclear if that will happen before Thursday’s campaign
If the PAIS candidates in Quito and Cuenca are defeated, it would represent a major blow to Correa’s stature and could limit his agenda in the final three years of his administration.
Another race that Correa and PAIS were once watching closely is for mayor of Guayaquil, where PAIS candidate Viviana Bonilla is challenging incumbent Jaime Nebot. Nebot, a frequent critic of the president, appears, however, to have a comfortable lead in the race.