Ecuadorians went to the voting polls last Sunday to participate in municipal and provincial elections for the second time since Rafael Correa was elected president. Early results indicate that 11,682,314 Ecuadorians voted which is equal to a 16.9 percent voter abstention rate; this is nearly 8 percentage points lower than in the previous municipal and provincial elections. Following the elections, UNASUR (the Union of South American Nations) issued a statement congratulating the Ecuadorian people for what they called “transparent and normal” elections.
The preliminary election results reveal that governing AP (Alianza PAIS) party candidates won a larger share of mayoral (30 percent) and prefecture (43 percent) elections than any other party.[i] In addition, AP achieved a 4 percent gain in prefecture electoral victories compared to the previous election. Table 1a shows the prefectures where Alianza PAIS won the highest percentage of voter shares.
The prefecture election results revealed noteworthy tendencies. The data indicates that Alianza PAIS lost in three prefectures (Azuay[iii], Imbabura and Loja) where they had won the majority vote in the previous election. The losses in both Imbabura and Azuay can be explained due to the fact that in both instances, the AVANZA party (newly formed left-of-center political party) reached out to Alianza PAIS in an attempt to form a broad coalition party but the local AP party officials rejected the offer. In a recent public statement, president Rafael Correa admitted that if AP party members had been more willing to form political alliances then they would have done better in the elections. Correa went on to criticize members of his own party and described their actions as overly “sectarian.” Today, as a gesture of solidarity, President Correa is scheduled to meet and congratulate all of the newly elected mayors of the provincial capitals.
Early election results indicate that the AVANZA party won 37 mayoral electoral races (a higher total net gain than any other political party) compared to Alianza PAIS, which suffered a 2 percent loss margin compared to the previous election. Also, AVANZA won four mayoral elections in provincial capital cities compared to Alianza PAIS which only won three (a decline of 41 percent from the previous election).
One of the most significant losses occurred in Quito, where SUMA (Sociedad Unida Más Acción) candidate Mauricio Rodas won the majority vote with 58 percent of the vote. Quito is considered to be very symbolic in terms of determining political sentiment toward the national government. Quito’s status as the political capital of Ecuador has given voters a reputation of voting strategically and unforgivingly; this year’s elections proved to be no different.
It was reported that certain voters were going to cast “anti-Barrera” (referring to the incumbent mayor of Quito Augosto Barrera) votes which would lend support to the opposition candidate, Mauricio Rodas, not because they approve of Mauricio Rodas but because they are unhappy with Augosto Barrera. Augosto Barrera has received mixed reviews during his tenure as mayor of Quito. In fact, prediction polls conducted by Gallup International indicated Mauricio Rodas as a slight favorite. Prior to the elections, Correa made several public appearances in which he encouraged voters to vote for Augusto Barrera.
How will the results from the local elections impact the overall goals of the Citizens Revolution[iv]?
As mentioned earlier, the AP made a slight improvement in the prefecture elections but experienced setbacks in the mayoral contests, most notably in Quito and Cuenca. Nevertheless, this is not likely to have negative overall impact on the goals of the AP political project. While mayors play an important role Ecuadoran politics, by no means do they have total authority over local political policies. Rather it is a collective process made up of the members of the municipal council who also play a very large role in the political decision-making process. Early election polls indicate that that in both Cuenca and Quito, cities where opposition candidates won the mayoral election race, it is unlikely that the new mayors will be able to diverge from the AP political agenda due to the fact that the majority of the elected municipal council members are members of Alianza PAIS.
Some government supporters are concerned that Alianza PAIS’ mayoral election loss in Quito is indicative of growing discontent with the Correa administration. In recent months, President Correa has approved of many controversial decisions including:
-Beginning oil extraction in the Yasuni national park.
-Law 1938 that imposes harsher punishments on medical malpractice. This law provoked considerable anger among members of the Ecuadorian medical community. Many members of Ecuador’s Federación Médica threatened a mass resignation if their demands were not met.
-Lastly, President Correa’s threat that he would resign if legislators from the National Assembly passed a proposal to ease abortion restrictions. Correa’s unwillingness to ratify the strict laws on abortion was particularly upsetting to the three legislators that authored the proposal.
These issues have led to many protests and criticisms of Rafael Correa. However, while the local elections in Quito and in Ecuador reveal many things they do not necessarily translated into a growing dissatisfaction with Rafael Correa’s presidency. In a poll conducted by Gallup last January, Correa received a 63 percent approval rating in his job as president. Despite setbacks in the local political arena the most recent popular opinion polls indicate that President Correa continues to be seen favorably by a majority of Ecuadorians.
[i] All electoral victories include Alianza PAIS coalition parties
[ii] Election results reflect figures from Consejo Nacional Electoral, as of Wednesday, March 5 2014.
[iii] The winning party was an AP/ MED coalition party.
[iv] The Citizens Revolution is a broad political project launched by Rafael Correa that aims at eliminating corruption, strengthening the constitution, creating healthy and sustainable forms of economic growth and finally, expanding the health and education services within the country.
*Asterisks indicate Alianza PAIS coalition parties.