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Weekly Report - 15 April 2021 (WR-21-15)

Lasso triumphs as indigenous voters reject return of Correísmo

Ecuador will shift to the right of the political spectrum on 24 May after Guillermo Lasso triumphed in the second round of presidential elections. The result was a savage indictment of the Citizens’ Revolution led by former president Rafael Correa (2007-2017). Lasso’s third tilt at the presidency did not meet with great enthusiasm in the first round on 7 February when he squeaked through to the run-off by the skin of his teeth ahead of Yaku Pérez, of the indigenous movement Pachakutik. In keeping with Pérez’s instructions, many of his supporters cast blank or void ballots in the second round on 11 April. But, crucially, enough of them opted to back Lasso, of the centre-right Movimiento Creo, to help overturn the 10-percentage-point lead Andrés Arauz, a left-wing disciple of Correa, enjoyed after the first round.

Momentum was with Lasso heading into the elections and it carried him to a narrow but decisive victory by 52.4% to 47.6% over Arauz. A breakdown of the results by province reveals that the bulk of those supporting Pérez, who won some 1.8m votes in the first round (just 33,600 fewer than Lasso), opted for Lasso if they voted for one or other of the candidates in the run-off. The same can also be said for supporters of Xavier Hervas of the moderate left-wing Izquierda Democrática (ID), who finished a strong fourth in the first round with more than 1.4m votes. Hervas, unlike Pérez, openly endorsed Lasso, favouring a unity pact to preclude the return of Correísmo.

Lasso added some 2.6m votes to his first-round haul; Arauz, only 1m. Lasso won in just two of Ecuador’s 24 provinces in the first round: Pichincha, where Quito is located, and the Galápagos. In the second round, the only one of the 13 provinces won by Pérez in the first round which Lasso did not win was Sucumbíos on the Colombian border. Lasso also won handily in Carchi, where Hervas won most votes in the first round. Arauz held on to the seven coastal provinces where he triumphed in the first round, including the country’s most populous province of Guayas, but he lost in Imbabura, his sole Andean highland province from the first round, where Pérez and Hervas had performed strongly.

Lasso won by a landslide in many of the highland and Amazonian provinces where Pérez triumphed in the first round, taking in excess of 70% of the vote in three – Napo, Pastaza, and Tungurahua – and well over 60% in a further nine, including Pichincha. This suggests that ultimately distrust of Correísmo was greater than distaste for Lasso among indigenous voters. But their lack of enthusiasm for Lasso, as well as compliance with Pérez’s call for them to spoil their ballots, was evident in the results in the provinces that transferred from the Pachakutik candidate to the former banker.

There were nearly 2m blank or void ballots cast. In Bolívar, for instance, Lasso won handsomely on paper, with 69.4% of the vote but he received a total of 69,000 votes, compared with 47,000 blank or void votes (while some 26,000 voters abstained). It was a similar story elsewhere. Even in Pichincha, where Lasso enjoys his strongest support and won just over 1m votes, there were 324,000 blank or void ballots cast, and 361,000 voters abstained.

The big challenge for Lasso now will be governing. Movimiento Creo will not enjoy a large representation in the 137-seat national assembly, winning only 12 seats. It will enjoy support (though not unconditional) from the conservative Partido Social Cristiano (PSC), which won 19 seats, but this will still leave Lasso a long way shy of the 69 seats needed for a simple majority to advance his government’s legislative agenda. Arauz’s Unión por la Esperanza (Unes) coalition won 49 seats and will provide a strong bulwark of opposition. Pachakutik, meanwhile, will have 27 seats and ID 18. While some supporters of these parties lent their votes to Lasso to keep Arauz out, he will not retain this borrowed vote, and both parties are likely to provide firm opposition in the legislature when they disagree with his government’s policy proposals.

Lasso did not explicitly acknowledge that the result was not so much a vote for him as a vote against Arauz, but he did seek to burnish his credentials as a fierce opponent of Correísmo, while promising to govern for all Ecuadoreans. “I did not enter politics to enrich myself or to persecute anyone,” Lasso said, while urging the public to have no compunction about “disagreeing with [him]”, in two pointed swipes at Correa. While gracefully conceding defeat, Arauz argued that “it is easy to think that divisions are caused by others”. He urged Lasso to “respect the rule of law and not stigmatise those who have different values and principles”.

Presidential results by province size and expatriate vote (%)

Provinces Arauz Lasso Electorate
Guayas 53 47 3.200,000
Pichincha 35.3 64.7 2.250,000
Manabí 66.1 33.9 1.125,000
Azuay 43.8 56.2 618,000
Los Rios 62.4 37.7 610,000
El Oro 51.6 48.4 514,000
Tungurahua 24.6 75.4 451,000
Chimborazo 34.1 65.9 410,000
Loja 32.5 67.5 388,000
Santo Domingo Tsáchilas 49.2 50.8 378,000
Cotopaxi 36.8 63.2 374,000
Imbabura 45.6 54.4 373,000
Esmeraldas 55.8 44.3 365,000
Expats North America 46.8 53.2 270,000
Santa Elena 61.1 38.9 257,000
Expats Europe & Asia 63.6 36.4 243,000
Cañar 48.1 51.9 196,000
Bolívar 30.6 69.4 172,000
Carchi 36.4 63.6 145,000
Sucumbíos 56.3 43.7 137,000
Morona Santiago 30.9 69.1 130,000
Orellana 44.5 55.5 123,000
Napo 25 75 90,000
Zamora Chinchipe 30.7 69.3 85,000
Pastaza 26.6 73.4 78,000
Galápagos 34.7 65.3 21,000
Provinces won 7 17