Thursday’s announcement by former Guayaquil mayor Jaime Nebot that he will not run for president sent shock waves through Ecuador’s political establishment. Considered the front-runner in the February 2021 election, his exit from the race is certain to attract new candidates and ideologies.
Saying he needs to devote more time to his family, the long-time leader of the centrist Social Christian party insisted that his political life is over. “Despite the fact that I am leading in the polls, I have decided it is time to leave the public forum,” Nebot said. “After 35 years of public service I have recently felt great repugnance for what I see in the country’s politics and this makes it easier for me to put personal and family interests first.”
Nebot said that the Social Christians will offer a “strong candidate” in the February election and he intends to campaign for the party. “Even though I am leaving the political stage, I will continue to fight for the Ecuadorian people and support Social Christian candidates.”
Offering only limited details, Nebot he will join others in proposing a popular referendum covering issues ranging from increasing penalties for corruption, replacing judges that let criminals go free, supporting major employers to strengthening financing for public health care. “There is currently a mess in Ecuador and we need to clean it up,” he said.
Nebot said he and other referendum supporters have been meeting with social, business, labor and educational organizations to define the terms of the referendum.
Political analysts say that Nebot’s departure from the campaign makes center-right candidate Guillermo Lasso the leader in the presidential race but also opens the door for strong leftist candidates. Lasso narrowly lost to President Lenin Moreno in the 2017 election.
Meanwhile on Thursday, former president Rafael Correa offered himself as a vice presidential candidate. “I will be a candidate in the next election if they let me,” he said, referring to the fact that he is currently not eligible to run for office due his conviction in the Brides 2012-2016 case. That conviction is currently being appealed. Correa’s party, Fuerza Compromiso Social, has not yet named a presidential candidate.
Correa lives near Brussels with his Belgian-born wife. As a fugitive, if he returns to Ecuador he is subject to arrest.