Based on current poll numbers, it appears likely that a member of President Rafael Correa’s Alianza País party will succeed him when he leaves office in early 2017.
Correa has said that he is confidant that País will maintain control of the President Palace in the February 2017 general election. “The opposition is disorganized and fragmented between the right and left,” he says. Political analysts agree.
The strongest País candidate is former Vice President Linen Moreno, who polls an overwhelming 60%, even higher than Correa if he were to run again.
Moreno, who is wheelchair-bound as a result of a gunshot wound during a robbery 15 years ago, is known for his easy going and highly likable personality. He was also a fierce champion of handicapped rights during his vice presidency. Currently, he serves as the United Nations Special Envoy on Disability and Accessibility. He is known for his keen sense of humor, which won him a French political humor award in 2009.
Even though Moreno maintains loyalty to Alianza País principles, he has shown a strong independent streak, disagreeing with Correa on a number of occasions since leaving office.
Two other possible Alianza País successors to Correa are current Vice President Jorge Glas and Cuenca native and Interior Minister José Serrano.
Glas, who has been a capable fill-in for Correa on weekly sabatina television broadcasts is, like Moreno, easy going and personable in contrast to Correa’s often testy approach to issues and opponents.
Serrano is more in the hard-driven Correa mold but earns his popularity as head of the country’s law enforcement agencies. Overall crime rates have almost been halved during his tenure, moving Ecuador into third place among Latin America for safest countries.
The field of possible Alianza País opponents will be crowded, led by Quito Mayor Mauricio Rodas, former presidential candidate Guillermo Lasso, and Guayaquil Mayor Jaime Nebot. The problem, analysts say, is that if even two of them decide to run, they will cancel each other’s support, since all are political centrists, to the right of Correa but to the left of other possible candidates. Lasso has already thrown his hat into the ring.
“These are all strong candidates and under different circumstances any one of them would be very competitive,” says Quito political analyst Paúl Ramirez. “The problem is that they’re dividing the same political base.”
There are a number of potential candidates on the left, at least two of them former members of Alianza País, who say that the Correa has been too conservative.
What could upset the Alianza País plan to hold the presidency?
“In a word, it’s the economy,” says Ramirez. “The opposition is counting on a dramatic economic crisis and if that happens, all bets are off for Correa and his supporters. On the other hand, the new País budget is pretty conservative and makes deep cuts where it needs to. I think the next year will see a worsening economy, mostly due to low oil prices, but it probably won’t be bad enough to threaten Alianza País.”