Ecuador divided for a presidential election in the shadow of ex-president Correa

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Ecuador is preparing for the second round of its presidential election. But more than a left-right duel, the election will be played out between supporters and opponents of ex-president Rafael Correa, a figure of the Latin American left very present in the campaign although absent from the country.

From Belgium, the country of his wife where he settled in 2017 after his departure from power, Rafael Correa led his foal until the second round, scheduled for April 11.

At 36, the little-known Andrés Arauz won against 15 candidates from across the political spectrum, who have in common only their rejection of the former socialist president.

This young economist, who won 32.72% of the vote in the first round on February 7, will face ex-conservative banker Guillermo Lasso, 65, second with 19.74%.

But the ballot goes well beyond a clash of generations, styles and ideologies.

“The fight between correism and anticorreism is shaping up,” political scientist Esteban Nichols, of Andean University Simon Bolivar, told AFP, predicting a duel of “antipathies” rather than preferences.

“There is going to be a competition of who is the least hated (…) and the least hated is Lasso”, he believes.

If Arauz has 13 points ahead of his competitor, he does not have the bases to win alone. Both he and Lasso will need to form alliances.

The ghost

It will not be easy for any to convince the electorate of the anti-Corréist left, represented by the indigenous environmental leader Yaku Perez, who narrowly missed his passage in the second round and denounces a fraud by demanding a new partial count of the votes.

But “beyond the confrontation of correism and anticorrelism, the social, economic and health situation of the country is critical and requires a consensus”, estimates political scientist Karen Garzon Sherdeck, of the international university SEK.

There is “a population that wants a change, that does not think about this dispute,” she adds.

Rafael Correa, head of the country for ten years from 2007, confronted traditional political parties, economic elites, the media and a sector of the indigenous movement.

He placed Ecuador in the fold of socialism which was then triumphing in Latin America. An economist, like his successor, he has strengthened the State and is criticized for wasting the windfall resulting from the high prices of oil, the country’s main export product.

“Correa was responsible for fragmenting the country,” said Pablo Romero, analyst at Salesiana University, according to which these divisions will “deepen” throughout the campaign for the second round, which officially begins on March 16.

To succeed him, he had dubbed his former vice-president Lenin Moreno, before accusing him of treason, following in particular the multiple trials targeting him, as well as some of his former collaborators.

The anticorréistes also reproach him for his “authoritarianism”, according to Mr. Nichols.

Correa’s movement, Alliance Pays, has weakened, split between its supporters and those of Moreno.

And a year ago, no one would have bet on the former president, sentenced in absentia to eight years in prison for corruption.

But he managed to be reborn politically, thanks to the unpopularity of Moreno, who on May 24 will leave a country in debt and ruined by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Faced with disenchantment, positions are radicalized. Faced with the abandonment of the State, the population is looking for a strong presence, ”explains Alejandra Delgado, sociologist at the Pontifical Catholic University of Ecuador.

Renovated anti-correism

If he has capitalized on this discontent, Arauz will have to overcome the reluctance and fears aroused by the possibility of a return to power of correism. Its opponents fear a government of revenge.

But Lasso does not promote cohesion. “He must concede a lot, he must abandon the conservative discourse that has not convinced,” said Mr. Nichols.

Since the first round, the curator has been trying to rejuvenate his image. He hooked up to Tik-tok, swapped his dark suits for brighter tones, stood by the natives, and started talking about the environment.

But for Ms. Garzon Sherdeck, he is a “worn out” candidate after two presidential failures in 2013 and 2017.

His past as a banker and member of the government during the banking crisis of 1999, which led to the polarization of the economy, means that he is not “accepted by several sectors of the population”, he explains. she.

Andrés Arauz and Guillermo Lasso have six weeks to win over the electorate of Yaku Perez and Xavier Hervas, a center-left candidate who came in fourth with 15.68% of the vote. None came out in favor of either of the opponents in the second round.