As Ecuador enters the final week of the presidential campaign, most election watchers say the race is headed to a runoff between the conservative Guillermo Lasso and leftist Andrés Arauz. Most believe that Arauz will lead in Sunday’s vote but will fall short of the 50 percent or the 40 percent plus a 10-point lead over the second-place finisher he needs for outright victory.
Although the campaign officially ends Thursday for the traditional “quiet period” preceding the election, online ads, which are not regulated by law, and small, informal candidate rallies will continue through Saturday although police will attempt to break up all public gatherings.
Ecuador’s “dry law,” prohibiting the sales of alcoholic beverages in stores, restaurants and bars before and during the election, goes into effect on Friday and continues until Monday morning.
Election analysts say the Covid-19 pandemic and the Ecuador’s deep economic recession make this year’s race more difficult to call than past elections. “There is enormous frustration and fear among the population,” according to former deputy foreign minister Raúl Estévez. “Many people are in dire economic circumstances due to the virus and unemployment is the highest it has been at least since the 1999 banking crisis. There is also a great amount anger at politicians in general and the belief that most of them are corrupt.”
The appeal for a return to Rafael Correa’s Citizens Revolution is strong, especially for the poor, Estévez says. “Despite the record of corruption of that period, many people remember the large public works projects and programs that favored the underclasses. Arauz is tapping into this sentiment and that’s why he will lead on Sunday and has a very good chance to win the April runoff.”
Estévez adds: “Of course, it’s easy to forget that Correa’s programs were funded by record high petroleum prices and those are long gone. Arauz will not have access to the money Correa had so there’s a question of how he will fund his programs.”
A composite of election polls gives Arauz a seven point advantage over Lasso but some believe the race is tighter. “The two polls that have been the most reliable in recent elections are split,” says Simón Pachano, a Quito political science professor. “The Market poll has Arauz at 37 percent and Lasso at 34 percent. On the other hand, Friday’s Cedatos-Gallup poll gives Lasso 26 percent and Azauz 24 percent. A big factor in the outcome will be the undecided and “no” votes, which amount to as much as 35 percent of the electorate in some polls.”
Pre-election day voting begins Friday when Ecuador’s 8,300 prisoners cast their ballot. On Saturday, election commission personnel will visit those who have asked to vote from home.