Ecuador’s crowded presidential field is finally complete for the February 7 national election. On Tuesday morning, the National Electoral Council (CNE) approved the candidacy of Andrés Arauz of the Correista Unión por la Esperanza. Then, just past midnight Wednesday, the Contentious Electoral Tribunal ordered the CNE to accept the candidacy of Álvaro Noboa. In all, there will be a record 17 tickets on the ballot.
Arauz, a protégé of former president Rafael Correa, is widely expected to challenge CREO’s Guillermo Lasso and the indigenous Pachakutik’s Yaku Pérez for the presidency. Unless a candidate receives 50 percent of the vote, the top two candidates will compete in a March runoff.
For Noboa, generally considered Ecuador’s richest man and often referred to as the “banana baron,” this will be his fifth presidential run, all of them unsuccessful.
The certification of Arauz and running mate Carlos Rabascall had been delayed by a challenge from other candidates who claimed that the Unión por la Esperanza’s original designation of Correa as vice presidential candidate and the subsequent change to Rabascall was a violation of election rules. CNE decided that the violation was minor and not grounds for disqualification.
In the case of Noboa, an earlier rejection by the CNE due to lack of voter signatures to qualify was overruled by the Contentious Electoral Tribunal, which has final authority in election issues.
According to former cabinet minister in two administrations, Byron Robles, the 2021 candidates will face an angry and apathetic public. “The consesus of the polls is that 35 percent of voters will vote ‘none of the candidates’ and although I expect this number to drop as we approach the election, a large number of ‘no’ votes could be a decisive factor. The huge field of candidates, most of which the voters do not know, will add to the apathy.”
He adds: “There is great cynicism about leadership in the country, much of it focused on corruption. The impact of the pandemic and economic crisis is the great unknown at this point.”
Robles believes it will be impossible for one of the candidates to get 50 percent of the vote on February 7. “There will be runoff, probably between Lasso and Arauz but it is possible that Pérez could move into the second position.”
Predicting the runoff winner is anyone’s guess, Robles says. “Under normal circumstances you would expect a leftist to win, either Arauz or Pérez, but circumstances are not normal this year. If it’s Lasso and Arauz in the runoff, it’s difficult to see Pachakutik and the various indigenous movements supporting the Correistas because of the bad blood that developed in the last years of the Correa government. I would not be surprised to see Lasso make a deal with Pachakutik against Arauz.”