Indecision, fear and anger define Sunday’s election; Cuenca breaks high temperature records; Lasso wants 2-cent tax on non-returnable plastic bottles

Aug 19, 2023 | 0 comments

More than 14 million Ecuadorians will go to the polls Sunday in an election that is being defined by indecision, anger and fear.

“This is an extraordinary election in many respects and voters are approaching it differently than others,” says Joaquin Ortiz, a political science lecturer at the University of Guayaquil. “First, there is the cross death, which means those elected will serve short terms and must turn around within a few months to start campaigning for the 2025 election. Then, there was the assassination of Fernando Villavicencio, which highlights the issue of gang violence in the country.”

Sunday’s election will see unprecedented levels of police and military security following the assassination of presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio.

According to Ortiz, the level of voter indecision is the “wild card” in the election. “We have never seen so many voters who say they might change their vote at the last minute. In the average of the final polls, even though most people expressed a choice for specific parties and candidates, more than 50% said they were not certain of their choice.”

Political commentator and columnist Jorge Jiménez says the emergency nature of the election is the reason for much of the indecision, as well as the shock and anger at the Villavicencio murder, as well as concern about crime in general. “The short timeframe of the election makes it hard for all the issues to be properly presented and debated and this leads to apathy and indecision.”

He is especially worried that the referendum question concerning oil production in Yanuni National Park has not received the attention it deserves. “This is a big decision with serious long-range consequences and the issue has been overshadowed by the focus on the presidential race.”

The biggest drama in the election for most voters concerns the presidential race, says Ortiz. “Can Luisa Gonzalez [Citizens Revolution] win 40% of the vote and avoid a runoff and, after that, who will come in second in the case she does not reach 40%?” he asks. “Yaku Perez and Otto Sonnenholzner were the strongest challengers two weeks ago, but the assassination could have changed that. We all assume that Christian Zurita [Villavicencio’s replacement for the Construye Movement] will gain support and some believe that Jan Topic is gaining momentum following last week’s debate.”

According to Ortiz, the opinion polls offer little perspective since, by law, none have been released since Villavicencio’s death. “A composite of the last polls shows that Gonzalez had lost a small amount of support and that Yaku was gaining but the events since then throw everything into disarray,” says Ortiz.

Ortiz, who served in three ministerial offices during the Rafael Correa government, says the “Correista – anti-Correista dichotomy” remains a looming factor in the election. “If we go to a runoff, which I think we will, this will emerge as the central issue. The Citizens Revolution believes they must win Sunday because of the strength of the anti-Correistas, who will coalesce around the candidate running against Luisa.”

Cuenca breaks high temperature records
Cuenca has broken high temperature records for two consecutive days as the thermometer hit 24.5 degrees Celsius (76 Fahrenheit) and 25C degrees (77F) respectively, on August 17 and 18. Temperatures at remote reporting stations in the Monay and Challuabamba neighborhoods were even higher, reaching 25.5C (78F) and 26C (79F).

In addition to advising that residents to take precautions against heat, the national meteorology office has issued UV ray warnings since Monday, saying the risk in Ecuador’s Andean region is in the “dangerous” range.

Officially, the highest temperature ever recorded in Cuenca was 27C (81F). The record low is -1.6C (29F).

Decree law would tax non-returnable plastic bottles
President Guillermo Lasso signed a new decree law Friday requiring a 2-cent tax on non-returnable plastic bottles. According to the president, the law would “formalize” the recycling process and reduce the waste of some plastic containers.

In a statement, Lasso said the law would benefit poor families who rely on recycling activities for a living. “It will guarantee a minimum payment for recycled plastic bottles.”

This is the fifth decree law that Lasso has issued. Three or four earlier decrees were rejected by the Constitutional Court, which has oversight authority during the cross death period.

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