Leftists look to build a coalition to challenge in presidential and National Assembly elections

Jan 23, 2020 | 19 comments

With the national election less than 13 months away, Ecuador’s leftist political organizations are considering forming a common front.

Conaie President Jaime Vargas considers a leftist coaltion.

“There are a number of conversations going on about building a leftist coalition to support a strong presidential candidate,” says Marcel Merizalde, a Quito political analyst and university professor. “They are also talking about coming together with a slate of candidates for the [National] Assembly but this is more problematic since the different parties have different political agendas.”

Merizalde and other observers say that the leftist and center-leftist field appears wide open without a strong candidate from the Correista Citizens Revolution. “The Moreno regime has run the most viable CR candidates out of the country – very unfairly and probably illegally, in my opinion – so there is room for new faces and new parties to make an impact in the next election.”

On Wednesday, the leftist Popular Unity party (UP) presented a plan to “Unite the people for a 2021 government.” According to political director Geovanni Atarihuana, urban leftists should unite with the indigenous movement and other leftist factions to create a common front. “We believe we should rally around a single presidential candidate and I believe the candidate should be indigenous,” he said. “We need to build on the energy of the October strike to take back the country from the rightwing and the neoliberals.”

Atarihuana says UP and other leftist organizations are in alignment with the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities (Conaie), labor unions and student organizations. “We all agree to fight mining, oppose the agreement with the International Monetary Fund, end privatization of public assets and to maintain the fuel subsidies. It is logical that we come together to support a common agenda.”

Conaie and Pachakutik, the indigenous political party, say they are open to creating a unified effort but say that any decisions will come through hundreds of local indigenous organizations. “This will be a bottom-up decision, not top-down,” says Jaime Vargas, Conaie president. He added: “It is our goal to elect a president and we understand this will only happen through a process of building coalitions.”

Merizalde says the idea of forming a common leftist front with the indigenous is not new. “It has been tried in the past and has failed,” he says. “Indigenous politics are difficult to measure so it is hard to know what they will decide. Over the years, Pachakutik has not been consistently leftist and has often supported rightwing causes so I say the jury is out on whether an effective coalition is possible. They may decide to support their own candidate.”

Carlos Esteban, a former political consultant from Cuenca, says that using the October protest as a rallying point for the left could be a mistake. “The strike was very divisive and many center-leftists were turned off by the disruption it caused, especially the blockage of highways and the attacks on public facilities,” he says. “Among the left, there is common opposition to ending the fuel subsidy but, beyond that, there are many differences.”

Both Estaban and Merizalde say predicting the next presidential election is almost impossible at this point. “A lot can happen between now and February 2021,” Esteban says. “What we know for sure is that there is a battle for the center-right between [Jaime] Nebot and [Guillermo] Lasso with Nebot trying to position himself as a centrist. We also know that Alianza Pais is fading and that the Citizen Revolution still has considerable support. All I can say is, stay tuned. It will an interesting year.”

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