Analysts foresee a shift in tone characterized by reduced attacks and a concerted effort to move beyond historical political party hostilities.
The upcoming presidential debate between Luisa González and Daniel Noboa promises to be a pivotal moment in Ecuadorian politics. Set to take place on October 1st, this face-off comes in a unique context following the shocking assassination of Fernando Villavicencio, which drastically reshaped the political landscape. The eyes of the nation are now fixed on these two finalists as they prepare to make their case to the electorate just two weeks before the October 15 elections.
In the lead-up to the debate, voter preferences may sway, influenced by the successes and missteps of Luisa and Daniel. These pivotal moments will not be confined to the official campaign, which kicks off on September 24th and concludes on October 12th. The two finalists share a common goal: to win over those who did not initially support them in the first round, a substantial pool of 4.2 million voters that previously backed other candidates.
Voters grow tired of squabbles
One prominent takeaway from the first round of presidential debates and the results of the August 20th election is that Ecuadorian citizens are growing weary of political confrontations and attacks among politicians. The antagonism between Correístas and anti-Correístas has left a bitter taste in the mouths of many voters. What they seek now are practical solutions to pressing issues and a vision for the future that doesn’t deepen existing divisions.
Luisa González, the presidential candidate from the Revolución Ciudadana movement, entered the first round of debates leading in all the polls. During her speeches, she primarily focused on confronting her perceived main rivals at the time, such as Jan Topic and Otto Sonnenholzner. She repeated the slogan, “We already did it,” referring to the past achievements of the government of Rafael Correa. Her approach garnered both criticism from her detractors and praise from her supporters.
On the other hand, Daniel Noboa, representing the National Democratic Alliance (ADN), was not on the radar of the top four most eligible candidates according to surveys. He neither received nor launched attacks during the debate, opting for a calm and composed demeanor while focusing on his ideas. His performance earned positive feedback and gave a significant boost to his campaign, making him a surprising contender for many.
Campaign fatigue to be expected
In this changed context, analysts predict that the upcoming debate between González and Noboa will be different. Daniel Noboa will now become the target of attacks, though not necessarily directly from Luisa González herself. It’s more likely that his opponents and those critical of his candidacy will take up the mantle of criticism.
As the second-round approaches, the tone set by the two finalists will be crucial. While efforts to undermine the opponent’s image and highlight one’s own strengths are expected, the strategies devised by their teams will play a pivotal role in shaping the messages and attitudes that emerge from the debate. These messages will subsequently reverberate on social media and shape digital discourse.
Andrea Yépez, a political strategist, emphasizes the importance of considering the level of fatigue both candidates bring into the second-round debate. The challenge, she suggests, may be greater for Noboa due to the high expectations he has raised. However, she also stresses that neither candidate is guaranteed a victory in the debate or the presidency.
“If, in the days leading up to the second-round debate, Daniel suffers a natural campaign wear and tear, as is already happening, some may arrive at the debate with lowered expectations, having developed animosity along the way due to newly discovered information about the candidate. This evolution could be especially detrimental for Daniel. In Luisa’s case, almost everything that could be said about her candidacy has already been said in the first round. Therefore, the most that can be expected in her case is a stable and neutral performance in the debate that neither gains her significant ground nor causes her significant losses,” comments Yépez.
Will a catchphrase emerge?
Alondra Enríquez, a digital political consultant at Golden Company, underscores the importance of two key moments: pre-campaign positioning and crafting compelling speeches, narratives, and staging. In the debate, both candidates are likely to attempt to introduce phrases or ideas that highlight negative aspects of their opponent, much like Guillermo Lasso’s use of “Andrés, don’t lie again” against Andrés Arauz in the 2021 presidential elections—a phrase that went viral on social media.
“The digital strategy will be decisive in persuading or promoting one of the two candidates. They will each need to leave their personal mark. This second-round debate must be a discussion between Daniel Noboa and Luisa González; they cannot rely on past values, as that could work against them. The young electorate is waiting for immediate solutions to their problems, primarily security and the economy. This second debate will be crucial,” predicts Enríquez.
Daniel Crespo, a political analyst and professor at San Francisco de Quito University, sees a formidable challenge for Luisa González in escaping the traditional communication attack rhetoric associated with the Citizen Revolution movement, especially its leader, Rafael Correa.
“The communication dynamics of Correismo have not softened. They continue to use fiery rhetoric, including portraying rival candidates as potential thieves or worse. It will be very difficult for Luisa González to deviate from this script. She may attempt to qualify it to some extent, but it’s unlikely she can entirely change it,” Crespo opines.
2006 Debate Between Rafael Correa and Álvaro Noboa
The forthcoming debate between Luisa González and Daniel Noboa evokes memories of the 2006 presidential debate featuring Rafael Correa, then the candidate for Alianza PAIS (list 35), and Álvaro Noboa, representing the now-defunct National Action Institutional Renewal Party (Prian, list 7).
Video fragments from this encounter, which occurred seventeen years ago, still resonate today. Notably, one moment stands out: Correa, the leader of 21st-century socialism, questioned why Álvaro Noboa, despite being the richest man in Ecuador, did not top the list of the country’s highest taxpayers. In response, Noboa claimed to have contributed millions of dollars through his businesses and accused Correa of receiving financial support from Venezuela.
Analysts point out that the relevance of recalling the 2006 debate depends on the electorate. For some voters, it might not carry significant weight for or against Luisa González and Daniel Noboa, as these candidates have different personalities and face a different national context compared to their predecessors. Nonetheless, it could add an interesting layer to the campaign narrative, especially as both finalists have invoked the figures and legacies of Rafael Correa and Álvaro Noboa.
To summarize, the upcoming presidential debate between Luisa González and Daniel Noboa holds immense significance in the context of Ecuadorian politics. As they prepare to face off, the candidates are aware of the need to sway the large pool of voters who did not initially support them in the first round.
The debate’s tone, strategies, and messaging will be closely scrutinized, and the role of digital media and social networks cannot be underestimated. As the campaign progresses, the memory of past debates and the legacies of previous leaders may also influence the narrative, adding complexity to an already dynamic electoral landscape. Ecuadorians will be watching closely as these two finalists make their case for the nation’s highest office in what promises to be a crucial and defining moment for the country’s future.