Police fired tear gas and water cannons to disperse protesters Friday night in Quito as the National Elections Council rejected most of the challenges presented by Yaku Pérez and his Pachakutik party to the February 7 election result. Of Pérez’s 27,000 voting station challenges, the CNE agreed to recount only 31.
Following the CNE decision, the indigenous organization Ecuarunari called for a national strike to protest the decision. A crowd estimated at 2,000 had gathered at CNE headquarters late Friday afternoon as the council met to consider the Pachakutik challenges.
The council’s decision effectively ends Pérez’s effort to contest the 32,000-vote lead of Guayaquil banker Guillermo Lasso to challenge Correista candidate Andrés Arauz in the April 11 presidential runoff. Even with major voting discrepancies in Pérez’s favor, the number of votes in the 31 precincts is not enough to overturn Lasso’s advantage.
Had they been approved by CNE, Pérez’s challenges would have required a 100 percent recount in populous Guayas Province and a 50 percent recount in 16 other provinces.
“The members of the CNE will go down in history not because of their commitment to democracy but because they caved into powerful economic interests to serve the status quo,” Pérez said after the council’s decision. “Of our twenty thousand challenges, they will do recounts for only 31. We do not ask for alms but we demand respect for the will of the people of Ecuador which was not shown today.”
National Police said they are prepared for mass protests but believe they will be smaller than those of the indigenous uprising of October 2019. The leaders of Ecuarunari (Confederation of Peoples of Kichwa Nationality) called for supporters to gather in Quito but said there could also be blockages of major highways, particularly in the sierra region. Other indigenous groups, including the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (Conaie) are not endorsing a national strike.
On Friday, periodic road blocks stopped traffic in Cuenca, Saraguro and Riobamba, on the N35 highway that connects Loja, Cuenca, Riobamba and Quito.
In its decision, the CNE said it had found few irregularities in the voting records Pérez wanted recounted. The council said that many of the records presented were duplicates or ones that had been corrected after they were photocopied by Pachakutik. By rule, CNE will not recount ballots when a review shows it will produce less than a .5 percent change in voting station totals.
CNE said it would begin immediately to recount votes for the 31 stations where it found major irregularities.