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Fight between national election committee and comptroller is all about Rafael Correa, some say

Although the national media is reporting the state comptroller’s complaints against the National Elections Committee (CNE), they are not reporting the back story, say a number of political commentators.

CNE President Diana Atamaint

Comproller Pablo Celi insists that four political parties should be disqualified from participating in the February 2021 national election, including Fuerza Compromiso Social (Social Commitment), the party of supporters of former president Rafael Correa. Celi points out several problems with the applications, including alleged inconsistencies in the signatures required for qualification.

Last week, the CNE ignored Celi’s complaints and certified the parties.

“This business about kicking four parties off the ballot is really only about one party, the one supported by Correa,” says Jonathan Ortiz, former advisor to two presidents, now a lecturer at San Francisco University in Quito. “There is great fear that the Correista candidates, including one for president, could have a very strong showing in the February elections. The anti-Correa camp, including Celi, are saying that the CNE board is sympathetic to Correa and are are ignoring the rules. The CNE says Celi is politicizing the election process with the sole intent of keeping Correa’s supporters off the ballot. Both sides may have a point.”

Although CNE President Diana Atamaint has not mentioned the Correa issue, she has told Celi to stay out of the committee’s business. “We have considered the issues the comptroller has brought up but did not find they had sufficient merit to disqualify the party applications involved,” she says. “We are already working from the election calendar and can tolerate no interference in our work.”

Celi, who claims he brought up the issue of questionable signatures in August 2019, has given the CNE 30 days to explain its decision and is threatening it with a fine of $8,000. He also says he may refer the matter to the National Assembly and ask for the removal of Atamaint if the committee does not follow his recommendations. The comptroller can not act on its own to remove Atamaint or to change committee decisions.

“On the issue of the signatures needed to qualify, there is no doubt that Fuerza Compromiso has more than enough support and the verification process is always problematic since you are matching signatures with copies of cedulas,” Ortiz says. “Celi is being very technical on this point but it may be the only to get rid of the Correistas.”

A recent poll showed that Fuerza Compromiso Social would come in second in the national election for both the presidency and the National Assembly. The poll also showed a record number of voters who said they would vote for no candidates due to disgust over corruption.

Ortiz says: “Given the uncertainty of the coronavirus, the bad economy, which will get worse before it gets better, and the new wave of corruption, the Correa people sense a huge opportunity in the election. The confusion and uncertainty will work to their advantage. I don’t think they will have the votes to elect a president but I think they could be a force in the next Assembly.”