On the 19th of February, presidential elections were carried out in Ecuador. The democratic contest led to a runoff which will settle the result on April the 2nd. Lenin Moreno, the candidate of the outgoing left-wing president Rafael Correa, managed to achieve 39.4% of the votes, falling 0.6% short of the 40% threshold, which would had avoided a runoff. The “ballotage” will see Moreno face Guillermo Lasso (who achieved 28.10% of votes in the first round), a former banker, and candidate of the traditional Latin American neoliberal right-wing. Polls are unclear, as both candidates will not only need to maintain their support base, but also approach other candidacies of the centre-left and centre-right respectively.
It should be noted that over 30% of the electorate voted for other candidates.
The Ecuadorian presidential election comes in a critical moment for the leftist movement in Latin America. After the “good days” of the late 2000s and the early 2010s, where progressive and leftist candidates would win almost every election in Latin America, 2015 and 2016 brought big defeats for progressivism. The defeats in Argentina (where a moderate centre-left candidate lost to neoliberal Macri) and in Venezuela (where the opposition won control of the National Assembly) symbolised what seemed a historic “turning point” in South American politics, with the end of the “pink tide” and a return to a Latin America with politics dominated by the Washington Consensus.
This trend seemed to continue over 2016, with the victory of Pedro Pablo Kuczynski in Peru in April, but it was Brazil’s parliamentary coup which showed the strength of the neoliberal-elites, eager to achieve power, even without a clear democratic mandate. The ousting of Dilma was seen by many as “the end of the left” in Latin America, and victories of right-wing candidates were foreseen in the next elections.
This is the regional context over which the election in Ecuador has been fought. A trend which showed little hope for leftists and progressives, and a prevalence of traditional neoliberal candidates or right-wing populists (which for decades were the predominant political forces in South America). However, Ecuador’s own context should not be avoided. Correa’s eight years of government have transformed Ecuador socially and economically. A big increase in both social and infrastructure investment, mostly supported by large oil revenues, have improved both Ecuador’s economic behaviour and living standards. Correa was a popular president throughout his two terms, and was re-elected in 2013 with over 57% of votes in the first round.
But the battle in Ecuador is of particular importance within this decline of leftism in Latin America. This will be an “all-or-nothing” battle, with both candidates located in the opposite ends of the political spectrum. A victory of Guillermo Lasso would “stab definitively” any hopes of progressive resurgence within the continent. The election of Moreno would give some hope, as Ecuador, as a founding member of ALBA, would stand as one of the last bastions of “Bolivarianism” in Latin America.
Progressives around the globe in general, and the Latin American Left in particular look these days at Ecuador. A defeat of Lenin Moreno would turn another country back to the traditional “blue” of neoliberalism, elitism and a preferential relation with the US. Progressives around the world, amongst which EFAy proudly stands, hope that this turns out not to be the outcome. We hope for inclusive, social and diverse policies to be the leading forces for Latin America, and history has proven, that these have only been carried out when leftists and progressives where voted into office.
Adrián Fuentes / Vice-president for International Affairs