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The Return of the ‘Candidate President’

Published on June 24, 2024

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For the first time in 11 years, a sitting president is running for re-election. Daniel Noboa will become a presidential candidate again, raising concerns about the implications.

The term “candidate president,” increasingly relevant these days, refers to a president who runs for re-election without resigning. This political scenario, which Ecuador might face, is problematic for several reasons. Chief among them are conflicts of interest and unfair advantages over other candidates.

A conflict of interest arises because, by holding executive power, the presidential candidate has access to state resources and public visibility that his opponents lack. This advantage can be significant during the campaign, as government machinery can be used to promote his image and political agenda.

A sitting president can leverage his actions to strengthen his campaign. For instance, he might inaugurate a hospital or implement popular policies such as scholarships on the eve of the election, influencing public opinion and boosting his re-election chances. This raises an ethical question: Are these actions for the country’s benefit or for electoral purposes?

Ecuador’s Significant Political Event

Ecuador is preparing for a significant political event as, for the first time in eleven years, a sitting president will seek re-election. President Daniel Noboa confirmed his intention to participate in the elections on February 9, 2025. The announcement has sparked debate and concern about using state resources for his campaign.

According to David Banda, a political and government communications consultant, Noboa has been in a “permanent campaign” since assuming the presidency on November 23, 2023. Banda notes that Noboa has focused on re-election from the start, emphasizing issues like security while neglecting important matters such as unemployment. Banda cites symbols like the cardboard figure of Noboa with the presidential sash and the use of purple in public institution logos—the color of his ADN party—as evidence of this intention.

The most recent precedent of a sitting president running for re-election is Rafael Correa, who faced criticism for improper use of official media in his 2009 and 2013 campaigns. Noboa’s situation rekindles these concerns and underscores the need for strict control by the National Electoral Council (CNE).

Medardo Oleas, a political analyst and former president of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (now CNE), emphasizes the importance of CNE controls to prevent the misuse of state resources. However, Oleas and Banda agree that the CNE has been ineffective on this issue in previous years, with the Contentious Electoral Tribunal (TCE) taking measures in cases of irregularities.

According to article 208 of the Code of Democracy, political organizations can disseminate their principles and programs without contracting paid advertising, thus accounting for electoral spending. This regulatory framework aims to prevent the candidate-president duplicity and ensure that the acting president, like any other candidate, complies with electoral transparency rules.

“The Code of Democracy stipulates that using state assets and resources in a campaign is an electoral violation. If President Noboa does not take unpaid leave, he would be using state resources in his campaign,” explains Medardo Oleas.

What Does Ecuadorian Legislation Say?

According to article 93 of the Code of Democracy, “dignitaries who opt for immediate re-election to the same position may take unpaid leave from the registration of their candidacies until the day after the elections.” This would apply to Daniel Noboa. The Democracy Code was published in the Official Registry on April 27, 2009, and has undergone several reforms, the last on February 3, 2020, including modifications to article 93.

On May 21st, President Noboa asked the State Attorney, Juan Carlos Larrea, to clarify whether this article applies to his case since he assumed office after the cross-death decreed by his predecessor, Guillermo Lasso, completing his four-year term without starting a new one. Noboa sought an interpretation allowing him not to request leave and to avoid handing over the presidency to Verónica Abad, thus becoming a candidate-president.

From Carondelet, they argued that if Noboa is re-elected, this would be his first official term, as the current one is transitory. They leverage a precedent: the Constitutional Court ruling of September 9, 2010, on the re-election of officials who did not complete a regular four-year term.

“In the case of articles 130 and 148 of the Constitution, both legislative and presidential elections called by the National Electoral Council will be to complete the remaining period without it being considered a new term for re-election purposes,” says the Constitutional Court ruling.

In simpler terms, this ruling supports Noboa’s case, stating that it is not re-election for someone elected to complete a term of an authority who did not finish it.

Constitutionalist Carlos Larco asks however, “How can the State Attorney General interpret a ruling from the highest Court in the country? What would that mean? Is there an entity above the Constitutional Court for legal regulations in Ecuador? No, never.”

The State Attorney General’s Office asked the CNE for support to respond to Noboa’s request. The CNE’s response, though not binding, was clear. Nora Guzmán, head of the Legal Advisory Department of the CNE, stated in an official letter to President Diana Atamaint that the electoral entity does not have the authority to interpret the rules and must apply them as originally written. Guzmán referenced the 2010 Constitutional Court ruling, suggesting the Attorney General might adhere to it and allow a Noboa candidate-presidency.

The CNE’s response left the final decision to the Attorney General’s Office, which had to consider article 93 of the Code of Democracy and the Constitutional Court precedent. On June 20, 2024, the Attorney General’s Office stated it refrains “from responding to the request,” saying it lacks jurisdiction and that doing so could imply interference with the powers of Electoral Function bodies. The Attorney General’s Office cited a lack of constitutional interpretive power, emphasizing that it cannot rule on matters reserved for the Constitutional Court.

Analyst Medardo Oleas says that it is legally impossible for Noboa to be president and candidate simultaneously, as it would be an electoral infraction punishable by the loss of citizenship rights according to the Code of Democracy. If Noboa uses state resources for his campaign, “they can denounce him, take away his citizenship rights, and end his candidacy,” says Oleas.

Verónica Abad: The Democratic Crossroads

The government has openly expressed distrust in Vice President Verónica Abad, especially in assuming the presidency. Carondelet argues that it would be “detrimental” for Abad to take power, potentially reversing government achievements. “The first thing she will do, on the first day, is reverse all the victories the government has had, especially in fighting impunity and insecurity,” said Vice Minister of Government Esteban Torres.

Article 146 of the Constitution of Ecuador establishes that the vice president is the natural successor in the event of the president’s temporary or permanent absence. Therefore, according to Medardo Oleas, any attempt to prevent Abad from taking office could be interpreted as a “violation of the law and an attack on democracy.”

Ecuadorian politics is at a turning point. The relationship between President Daniel Noboa and Vice President Verónica Abad, tense since the electoral campaign, has become a political battlefield testing the limits of power and democracy.

While the law is clear regarding presidential succession, the hostility between Noboa and Abad, whom he sent to Israel for diplomatic duties, complicates the transition of power. President Noboa, according to legal experts, could limit Abad’s reach by delegating executive powers to his ministers. However, this could be seen as an attempt to undermine the vice president’s constitutional authority and democracy.

Abad has promised to maintain order during her possible temporary mandate. However, accusations of political violence and tensions with Noboa’s government suggest her presidency could be turbulent. Complaints filed by Abad with international bodies and ongoing legal disputes add to the uncertainty of the national political landscape.


  1. Why is this all a surprise to everyone? In every democratic country, the incumbent can run in the upcoming next election as long as the electoral laws allow another term. So what?

    • I agree. I{ve never read of a U.S. Pres. seeking reelection accused of an “unfair advantage”. Reporters are business people whose business is stirring up trouble where there is none but the reality seens to be that this is only a tempest in a tea-pot.

    • The “so what” is that he has to step down as President to run again as President.

  2. I live in Southern Ecuador, and I have yet to talk with a single Ecuadorian who plans to vote for Noboa. He hasn’t helped the 30% of Ecuadorians without potable water or sewage treatment, he hasn’t helped the IESS at all, and he had no idea what he was doing when he took the IMF money. Countries that accept those loans cause the countries to raise rates – ie get rid of subsidies on gasoline – and on so many things that students who want to attend university can no longer afford to do so.

    My Ecuadorian friends all agree that he is nothing but a rich boy who never went a day in his life without food.


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