Political analysts say the debate and the U.S. dollar could determine presidential winner

Aug 9, 2023 | 0 comments

Less than two weeks before Ecuador’s cross death election, pollsters and analysts say the outcome of the presidential race is very much in doubt.

Political experts believe Sunday’s debate and Andres Arauz’s comments about the U.S. dollar could change votes ahead of the August 20 election.

“Everyone agrees that Luisa González [Citizens Revolution] will lead the field August 20,” says Pedro Donoso, who has managed presidential and National Assembly campaigns for more than 20 years. “After that, there is uncertainty — first, about whether she can win outright in the first election or whether we will go to an October runoff. Most believe there will be a runoff between González and either Yaku Pérez, Otto Sonnenholzner or Fernando Villavicencio.”

On Tuesday, Donoso said two factors could be critical in determining the outcome. “First, there is the debate on Sunday and then there is the issue of [Citizens Revolution vice presidential candidate Andres] Arauz’s comments about dropping the dollar,” he says. “I don’t think either the debate or the dollar controversy will move many votes, but it could move enough to determine whether González wins in the first round.”

Political analyst Santiago Pérez calls the dollar issue “mostly emotional” since he says there is no chance a Correista government would abandon it. “Gonzalez, [Rafeal] Correa and Arauz are right to say that it is a non-issue but that may not matter. Although voters may not understand many of the talking points of this campaign, they all know about the dollar and almost everyone supports its use as Ecuador’s currency.”

He adds: “The Correistas are pounding the podium to say Arauz’s comments are four months old and irrelevant and shouldn’t detract from other issues – and they are correct — but, to paraphrase Shakespeare, it is a case of them protesting too much. They are scared to death that the dollar will be on people’s minds on election day.”

Francis Romero, director of the Click Report polling service, agrees with Pérez about the emotional impact of the suggestion the Correistas will drop the dollar for a digital currency. “Rafael Correa suggested it in the 2006 campaign but dropped the idea many years ago. Obviously, he hated to see Arauz resurrect it just days before the election,” he says. “There is no way the Correistas would ditch the dollar — it would be political suicide if they did — but their opponents have gained traction by emphasizing it. If the issue changes 1% or 2% of the vote in their favor, they’ll consider it a win.”

No matter the impact of the dollar controversy or the debate, Romero believes there will be a runoff in October. On Tuesday, his company released its latest poll showing Gonzalez favored by 29% of voters, ahead of Perez with 14.5% and Sonnenholzner with 12%. “Our poll agrees with most others that she is well below the 40% needed to win.”

He continues: “As with the last election, there is a definite pro-Correista, anti-Correista dynamic playing out here. Like voters everywhere, Ecuadorians are not very ideological and don’t care much for traditional rightist or leftist positions. On the other hand, many voters have strong feelings about the Correa presidency and that will be reflected in two weeks and probably in October.”

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