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Nebot’s departure from presidential race opens the door for the Correistas, political experts say

The presidential ballot for the February election is getting crowded.

Jimmy Jairala (right) with former president Rafael Correa.

“It is not usual for a national election to attract a large field of candidates but this one could set a record,” says political analyst Carlos Fernandez. “Jaime Nebot’s decision not to run for president has opened the flood gates since the consensus was that he and [Guillermo] Lasso would be hard to beat.”

Fernandez also believes that Nebot’s exit opens the door for a candidate supported by former president Rafael Correa. “We don’t yet know who that will be but I wouldn’t bet against him making the run-off with so many candidates splitting the vote. Given the times, a strong leftist could do very well in this election.”

In addition to Lasso, who has already announced he will run, it is expected that the major candidates will be Otto Sonnenholzner, indigenous leader Leonidas Iza and a candidate from Nebot’s Social Christian party. Sonnenholzner, who resigned the vice presidency last week, has yet to announce but he is expected to soon. “And then the you have all the others jokeying for position like [Alvaro] Noboa, [former president Lucio] Gutiérrez, [Fernando] Balda, Paúl Carrasco, Yaku Perez, etcetera, etcetera,” Fernandez say. “I would not be surprised to see 15 names on the ballot in the first round.”

Like Fernandez, journalist Juan Miller believes that a Correista candidate could easily make the March run-off. “At this point, it appears that Lasso will lead the field in the first round but with Nebot’s departure, I see a strong possibility that the Correa candidate will come in second. Of course, the big question is who that candidate will be since the best ones have fled the country along with the ex-president.”

Miller says the timing of a meeting last week of Correa supporters could not have been better. “It was meant to show a broad-base of support for the Correistas and that’s why they called it the Unión por la Esperanza [Union of Hope] and it received more notice coming just days after Nebot dropped out,” he says. “Of course, the meeting was an orchestrated spectacle, not a groundswell of support for Correa, as the organizers insisted, but it reinforces the fact that there is still significant support for Correa.”

The most frequently mentioned name to carry the Correista banner is Jimmy Jairala, former Guayas Province prefect. “Based on name recognition, Jairala would have the best chance to advance to the runoff,” Miller says. “The problem is that Correa doesn’t really trust him. Like Lenin Moreno, he is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, a one-time ally who turned on the master to support the referendum question that denied Correa the chance to run for another term. Now, Jairala’s says he’s back in the fold and he’s probably the best chance the Correistas have for regaining the presidential palace.”