Although the next national election is a year-and-a-half away, two of the leading candidates to succeed Lenin Moreno as president are busy laying the groundwork for their campaigns. In recent weeks, former Guayaquil mayor Jaime Nebot of the Social Democratic party and Guillermo Lasso of CREO, have been holding strategy meetings with elected and party officials around the country.
Both candidates are considered centrist-conservatives although Nebot has signaled a move to the left in several recent statements.
Lasso announced that he would run again for president following his narrow defeat to Moreno in 2017 while Nebot has not publicly committed, saying he is still “exploring the possibility.”
Since the beginning of July, Nebot has met with mayors and municipal council members of several cities, including Machala and Ambato, while Lasso has visited officials in communities near Quito. “I’m in the process of educating myself about the needs and problems of the various regions of the country,” Nebot says. “So far, I am hearing about the crisis of underemployment in Ecuador as well as the need to provide greater support to agriculture, livestock and agribusiness.”
Meanwhile, Lasso announced that he will move his family to Quito from Guayaquil, saying he wants to strengthen CREO support in the sierra and Amazon regions. Last week he met with officials in Puembo, Chilibulo and Quito.
Nebot made headlines two weeks ago when he announced his support for changes to Ecuador’s abortion law, saying he now supports a woman’s right to an abortion in cases of rape and incest. Lasso said he supports the current law and opposes abortion in all cases.
According to former interior vice minister Wilson Ugalde, Nebot is attempting to move to the political center and take advantage of what he sees as confusion among the country’s leftist movements. “This is probably a smart move on his part, distancing himself from Lasso on the one hand and appealing to center-leftists who don’t like [former president Rafael] Correa but are disappointed with Moreno,” he says.
Uglade, an adjunct professor of Latin American studies at Fordham University in New York, says it too early to determine the “big themes” of the 2021 presidential election. “Nebot and Lasso are smart to keep their campaigns low key at this point,” he says.
Uglade says he expects presidential candidates for Alianza Pais and supporters of Correa to emerge within six months. He also expects opponents of mining and oil exploration to field a strong candidate, splitting the leftist vote. “The left and center-left field will be crowded,” he says. “Things will get very interesting in the next few months.”