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Ecuador turns from Correísmo and hands over power to conservative Guillermo Lasso

Published on April 14, 2021

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The presidential candidate of the conservative alliance CREO-PSC, Guillermo Lasso, was declared the winner of the elections held this Sunday in Ecuador, when with 97.79% of the tally sheets counted, he obtained 52.50% of the votes, five points over his correista rival Andrés Arauz.

“Ecuadorians have chosen a new course, very different from the last 14 years in Ecuador,” he said in his first statements after his electoral victory.

Surrounded by his wife, María Lourdes, the Vice President-elect Alfredo Borrero, and the leader of the Social Christian Party and former Guayaquil Mayor Jaime Nebot, Lasso said that Ecuadorians, “Have expressed with their vote the need for change and the wishes of better days for all.”

Arauz concedes

Andrés Arauz, aspiring candidate of the leftist alliance Unión Por la Esperanza (UNES) and political heir to former President Rafael Correa (2007-2017), who obtained 47.50%, according to official data, acknowledged his defeat saying that it is a “political setback, but not a defeat.”

In an unusual act in Ecuadorian politics, Arauz told a group of followers that he would personally call Lasso to congratulate him on his electoral victory, which he said demonstrates the democratic spirit that guides his political formation (he kept this promise later that evening).

Lasso’s victory was a bit of a surprise in the country: after Arauz won in the first round held on February 7th, Lasso managed to gather the support of 12.98% more voters than he received in the first round.

From his home city of Guayaquil, the 65-year-old politician thanked his voters and named all the members of his campaign team one by one.

“From next May 24th, we will assume with responsibility the challenge of changing the destiny of our homeland and achieving opportunities and prosperity for all of Ecuador that we all long for,” he said.

In a follow-up talk, in the Ecuadorian capital, Lasso said, “I wanted to come this time to Quito, the city where my father was born, to in a particular way thank Quito, Pichincha, the Ecuadorian Sierra, the indigenous peoples and nationalities who gave us their overwhelming support.”

He thanked his entire CREO Movement work team, the assembly members elected by Pichincha, and all the Independent groups that spontaneously mobilized to celebrate his electoral triumph. “That support they have given us is what we are going to require as a government,” Lasso said.

He referred again to the need to fight corruption and get out of the moment of health and economic crisis that Ecuador is going through.

“We are going to work so that those who are doing well in life pay taxes. It cannot be that someone who is an entrepreneur does not contribute to the SRI. We must all contribute and share success with those who need it most,” he exhorted.

Finally, he expressed that his intention is to serve the 17 million Ecuadorians and fight against corruption, recovering the ill-gotten money so that it returns to the fiscal coffers. He called for unity and reiterated that he does not come with any list to destroy anyone, “One thing is for justice to act, for the Government to help, but another thing is for it to be persecuted.”

The former banker was a presidential candidate on two other previous occasions, one against Correa in 2013, and the second against Lenín Moreno in 2017. Lasso had said that this was going to be the last time he appeared in the electoral list, but the third time seems to have been the charm.

Dozens of supporters of the CREO Alliance and the Christian Social Party gathered in Guayaquil and on the main avenue of the neighboring municipality of Samborondón shouting “Lasso Presidente,” waving blue and white flags of the movement, as well as around the central headquarters of the CNE in Quito.

What Lasso’s win means

Two things emerged from Lasso’s victory at the polls: the first, the important anti-Correísta vote won, and the second, the relevance of the suffrage of the invisible candidate in these elections, the ex-presidential indigenous Yaku Pérez, who asked his supporters for a null vote, which reached a historical level of 16.25% or 1,663,606 votes.

The indigenous vote was the great uncertainty of these elections, and the announcement last Saturday of the leader Jaime Vargas, President of Conaie, to align himself with Arauz, had sown great concern in the center-right field.

And even so, the null vote came to just under one point of the vote that Pérez obtained in the first round as a candidate for president for the Pachakutik formation.

Lasso was running for these elections as the least favorite candidate, judging by the results of the first round, but two events helped him soar: his face-to-face debate with Arauz on March 21st, and the publication that his rival had been on the Central Bank payroll thru August 2020, although he was on leave of absence.

Lasso also received the support of the center, the indigenous sector, youth and women, and groups far from the traditional orbit of Christian socialism, like the LGTB.

In his victory speech, he promised to defend the members of this group, as well as women, adolescent mothers, peasants, workers, doctors, among others.

Just over 13 million voters were called to the polls in Ecuador and abroad in elections that were considered a geopolitical barometer in Latin America after the shift to the left experienced in Argentina and Bolivia.

Rafael Correa’s successor, the still president, Lenín Moreno, had withdrawn from his political approaches, but correísmo in Ecuador continues to cause bitterness and division among a large part of the population.

If the null vote were a message of political protest, the rest of the electorate would have turned towards Lasso as an anti-government option.

“We are going to work decisively for the 17 million Ecuadorians, leaving no one behind,” said the conservative politician, betting on “the change of a prosperous country” and “where no one has to be afraid.”

Despite his victory, Lasso will have serious problems to govern, because in the National Assembly his party barely has 12 seats out of 137, and his PSC allies another 19.

Ten of the commitments announced by President-elect Guillermo Lasso

President-elect Lasso has made several proposals of what he plans to do in his government. In his work plan, in various speeches, tours of the country and electoral campaign, he has set out some issues on which he will focus in the next four years.

Here are ten of those commitments:

  • Mass vaccination plan. In the first 100 days of his government, he intends to immunize 9 million Ecuadorians against COVID-19.
  • Implement technological tools that will improve the National Health System, to eliminate fees and costs derived from “paperwork” in health investment processes.
  • In his plan he speaks of generating at least one million productive jobs. This will be achieved through the creation of various contracting modalities. He also said that the 2022 salary will be $500.
  • Labor reform. Through the new Labor Opportunities Law, hiring mechanisms will be created to promote a transition between academics and the labor market for young people. This will be in addition to other incentives that facilitate the hiring of vulnerable groups.
  • Reduction of interest rates and elimination of taxes. For the first, one of the ways to do it is with the entry of international banks to Ecuador, for which the necessary conditions must be created. In the second, he proposes the elimination of the 2% tax on the sales of small businesses and the tax on the exit of foreign currency, among others, during the four years of government.
  • Increase in entrepreneurship. Mechanisms for this include the double income tax deduction for hiring beneficiaries of the Human Development Bonus, and the double income tax deduction for the creation of at least ten jobs for each new venture.
  • Directed credit. For microentrepreneurs and artisans there will be credits up to 5% annual interest.
  • Social security. Promote formal jobs that allow more Ecuadorians to access social security coverage and regulatory reforms that allow a fair retirement.
  • Reopen and strengthen at least 900 rural schools and implement innovative educational methodologies so that they are on par with the urban area.
  • Higher education. Draft reform law to the Law of Higher Education. Improve the university access process and guarantee the academic independence of universities from their regulatory bodies.

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