Ecuador. In the local elections held on February 23, President Rafael Correa, for the first time during his long term, suffered a major electoral defeat. Despite his strong commitment to supporting the mayoral candidates of his government coalition, the País Alliance (AP), especially in the large port city of Guayaquil, hopes there were shattered by the city’s strong man, Jaime Nebot, defeating challenger Viviana Bonilla for many years.
Even worse was that the mayor’s post in the capital Quito, held by Correa’s party comrade Augusto Barrera who had long led in the polls, was instead won by opposition candidate Maurício Rodas from the newly formed opposition party SUMA (United Society – More Action).
According to Countryaah.com, Ecuador population in 2020 is estimated at 17,643,065. The results of the local elections directly impacted politics at national level as well. The newly elected mayors of the opposition, in particular Nebot in Guayaquil and Rodas in Quito, accused Correa of a bill on territorial organization to be presented to Congress contravening the constitution and aimed at the country’s municipalities in an effort to reduce their autonomy towards the central government. The bill was about drawing clearer city boundaries and limiting the possibilities of building too close to the boundary of the surrounding rural land.
As a direct result of the February 23 election results, Correa reformed the government and also raised the issue of re-election for incumbent presidents on the political agenda.
Other hot political issues were the government’s plans for oil exploration in the Yasuní National Park, which a protest group planned to demand a referendum on, and changes in labor laws. In mid-September, several dissatisfaction groups gathered for mass demonstrations across the country against several of these plans. Ironically, among them were several of Correa’s most important support groups since Correa’s Citizen Revolution began in 2007, as the country’s largest trade union.
At the February 2017 presidential election, incumbent President Correa was unable to stand as he had already been in office for two terms. Instead, his Alianza PAIS (Patria Altiva in Soberana) appointed Lenín Moreno as presidential candidate. He got 39.4% of the vote while Guillermo Lasso in second place got 28.1%. The 2nd round of elections in April was narrowly won by Moreno with 51.2. The right wing, the US and the EU had made every effort to get the right-wing Lasso elected, but this failed. The United States had a special interest in “regime change” as it would have resulted in the immediate delivery of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. But Argentina and Brazil’s tendency to remove leftist heads of state was broken.
Because of the fierce conflicts between the state and the indigenous people of the Amazon, Lasso gained a majority in the presidential election in those areas, while Moreno gained a majority in Altiplano and along the Pacific coast.
At the same time as the first round of presidential elections, parliamentary elections were held. It was a staggering defeat of President Alianza PAIS, who lost 26 seats and had to settle for 74. The right-wing CREO alliance, in turn, went 22 seats up to 34. Despite the defeat of Alianza PAIS, however, it still had an absolute majority in the 137-seat parliament.
Finally, a referendum on tax havens was held in February. 55.1% of the population voted that it would be illegal for politicians and public servants to place their money in tax havens. The right wing was against criminalization of wealth placement in tax havens, while Correa and PAIS were in favor.
In February 2018, Ecuador conducted a 7-point referendum on the agenda:
- Should an addition be made to the Constitution that prevents persons convicted of corruption from lining up? 73.7% voted in favor
- Should an addition be made to the Constitution which ensures that persons in public office can only stand for re-election once? 64.2% voted in favor
- Should an addition be made to the Constitution restructuring the Council of Citizen Participation and Social Control and terminating the already elected office? 63.1% voted in favor
- Should an addition be made to the Constitution, which means that sexual crimes against children and teenagers are never penalized? 73.5% voted in favor
- Should an addition be made to the Constitution that prohibits mining under any form in protected, inaccessible and urban areas? 68.6% voted in favor
- Should the law prohibiting land speculation and tax speculation be abolished? 63.1% voted in favor
- Should the definition of inaccessible areas be raised to at least 50,000 hectares, and should the area approved by Parliament for oil exploration in Yasuní National Park be reduced from 1030 hectares to 300? 67.3% voted in favor
Despite point 5 prohibiting mining in protected areas, such as those owned by the indigenous population, the Ministry of Mines continues to grant concessions to mines, despite frequent violent opposition from the indigenous population.