After a second voting round, which should’ve defined who would be the next President, Ecuador is left on the brink of social confrontation and a crisis of legitimacy of unforeseeable consequences.

Even though the National Electoral Council issued results at 11:00 p.m. of April 2, announcing Correa-handpicked candidate Lenín Moreno as the winner with a mere 2.2% advantage, tens of thousands of Ecuadorians took to the streets to protest against what they considered was electoral fraud. Thousands stood in vigil on the streets throughout the night and early in the morning of April 3 to force the National Electoral Council to respect electoral results. Opposition candidate Guillermo Lasso announced that he’ll demand a vote recount, because he has evidence that ballots were tampered with.

The people’s reaction, regardless of whether the results were true or not, is explained by how shady proceedings were throughout Sunday, especially because of the Electoral Council’s lack of credibility as an institution completely subservient to Rafael Correa’s government.

The ghost of the Venezuelan crisis lurks in this period of social unrest.

Questions were first raised when the Electoral Council’s webpage went down for 20 minutes during the afternoon and came back online with 94% of ballots counted and the news that Lenín Moreno was leading the results. The opposition’s unease was heightened when the CNE issued information that Moreno was ahead by 200,000 votes with only 96% of ballots counted, despite the fact that at least three exit polls were showing Lasso as the winner. This was telling because the CNE had refused to issue results during the first voting round until 100% of the ballots had been counted. Later, opposition candidate Guillermo Lasso announced that he’d challenge the results, claiming that he had evidence that many ballots were counted in favor of Moreno.

By then, at least 6,000 people had gathered near National Electoral Council headquarters to demand respect for popular will. Not far from there, the government candidate Lenín Moreno celebrated his triumph along with president Correa in another rally attended by at least 2,000 people.

Protests against the results sprang up almost in every city of the country, without major violent incidents being reported thus far. The ghost of the Venezuelan crisis lurks in this period of social unrest. The opposition spoke during the campaign about the risk of Ecuador following on Venezuela’s footsteps with a Moreno victory. Even Lilian Tintori, wife of political prisoner and dissident leader Leopoldo López, was invited by candidate Lasso and, even though she was barred from entering the country, her situation was widely discussed during the campaign. Meanwhile, the government did all it possibly could to persuade the electorate that there are no parallels between the realities of Ecuador and Venezuela. There’s a large Venezuelan community in Ecuador or at least 60,000 people, living in hard economic conditions.

Venezuela’s case resurfaced after electoral fraud complaints. Social networks were flooded with references of what happened during the 2013 presidential elections and former Venezuelan Electoral Council authority Ana Mercedes Díaz has become one of the most outspoken critics of the alleged fraud. Díaz was even forced to take refuge in the American Embassy while overseeing the first voting round that took place past February 19th, claiming that Correa’s government wanted to arrest and deport her. Díaz points out that Ecuador’s Electoral Council has committed fraud through software tampering.

The government did all it  could to persuade the electorate that there are no parallels between the realities of Ecuador and Venezuela.

But the strange events that took place after polling stations were closed are not the only reason behind the opposition’s decision to protest on the streets. Public indignation is also supported by the CNE’s almost complete lack of credibility. The institution has allowed the government to use every available State resource to boost Moreno’s campaign, including gross proselytizing on State-controlled media, whose support for Moreno’s bid had become increasingly obvious in recent weeks. A sizeable portion of Ecuadorians are evidently skeptical of the Electoral Council’s role in guaranteeing a fair electoral process.

Ecuador is now paying the price for adopting Correa’s political system, with no branch autonomy, where oversight institutions such as the Prosecutor’s Office, the Comptroller’s Office and the Electoral Council itself are under government control. People feel helpless before the Party-State’s power and see public protest as the only way they have left to defend their rights.

Ecuador is now paying the price for adopting Correa’s political system where oversight of institutions is under government control.

The risks of an open social conflict due to these elections are rooted in the fact that the country is divided in half, with one of the sides still supporting Correa’s political system. Not so long ago, however, approval for Correa’s model was nearly 70%, but economic recession due to dropping oil prices and accusations of corruption have caused a relevant portion of society to reconsider.

Even though results announced Lenín Moreno as the victor, if he’s sworn into office, his grasp on the government might be weakened by a lack of legitimacy. Such a close victory leaves the country divided and suspicions of fraud will make it hard of Lenín Moreno to govern, this in addition to the critical economic situation of a country unable to finance the enormous and costly State, legacy of the Correa administration.

It’s unclear if a Moreno administration will lend the same unconditional support to chavismo than Correa did.

In case Moreno’s triumph is confirmed, he’ll inherit a country where over half of the population won’t recognize him as a legitimate president amidst a complex economic situation that will raise all stakes. Therefore, if Moreno is indeed sworn into office, his legitimacy will be severely questioned, making Ecuador ever more vulnerable to social conflict.

So why should this matter to anyone outside of Ecuador? At a regional level, Ecuador’s situation is quite delicate. It’s one of the only two countries still supporting the chavista regime in Venezuela, the other being Bolivia. If Lasso had won, Maduro’s government would’ve lost one its last allies. It’s unclear, however, if a Moreno administration will lend the same unconditional support to chavismo than Correa did.

Moreno knows that he’ll take office with dwindling political capital and a population fearful of having to experience a new version of Venezuela. We shouldn’t dismiss the possibility that Moreno might distance himself from Maduro once he’s president.

This won’t be easy, in any case. A relevant portion of his party’s militancy strongly identifies with chavismo and several Assembly legislators fall into this group. Whatever the outcome, Venezuela will remain a important point in Ecuador’s political debate. Ecuadorians know for a fact that thousands of Venezuelan migrants are loathe to see a correísta in power, because the fear of reliving what they left behind in Venezuela is constant, and that has been a strong point of contention throughout the presidential race.

Venezuela is definitively an issue that Moreno must be extremely cautious about in order to improve the legitimacy of his government, which is headed for a rough start with a weak nation much more divided now than when he accepted to run for office.

Caracas Chronicles is 100% reader-supported. Support independent Venezuelan journalism by making a donation.


    • yes and Capriles is not locked up in Jail and able to help the people of Venezuela behind the policital scenes.
      Roy you are a Moron

  1. I have family in Quito, one of whom lives close to CNE HQ. He reports his entire area is under police/military control, and that no one has access to observe the vote counting process except people from the ruling party.

      • Not sure. What I am told at present is that absolutely no one – journalists, opposition observers, etc – has access to view the process. Lots of coming and going with military personnel and vehicles w/o plates.

        I imagine that the Correa gvmt would likely claim that int’l observers would be superfluous and an insult to Ecuadorean nat’l sovereignty. They and only they can trusted (ha ha) to ensure the integrity of the outcome.

  2. “if Moreno is indeed sworif Moreno is indeed sworn into office, his legitimacy will be severely questioned”

    So what? Legitimacy is clearly totally irrelevant for those who want to govern with other means

    • Not really. People are circulating the 4.523.513 number, but when you look at the pictures they show with it, it actually reads 4.823.513. You do the math with these numbers and, effectively, 4.621.654 represents 48.93%, and 4.823.513 represents 51,07%.

      So far, Lasso has presented the same proof of fraud that Capriles did in 2013: none.

  3. Meanwhile, the government did all it possibly could to persuade the electorate that there are no parallels between the realities of Ecuador and Venezuela.

    While the government of Ecuador barred entry to Lilian Tintori, the wife of Venezuelan political prisoner Leopoldo López.
    Bit of a contradiction there.

  4. While Correas rethoric and attempt at taking control of the institutions of govt and persecution of the press is similar to that of our Regime , in other respects its been more respectful of conventional economic governance leading to quality of life results which many Ecuadorians appreciate ….!! If our local leaders had followed similar economic practices they too would have retained the support of close to half the voters …..

    Strongly suspect that the new president will be less radical than his predecessor , using the same ideological colouring but with less aggressiveness.

    • I have seen arguments that:

      1. Say that the economic statistics claiming improvements come from the government itself and that they are highly questionable.

      2. Say that any economic improvements came as a result of the commodities boom, and that Ecuador should have done better given the income windfall.

      I am not so sanguine about this development. To me this represents a halt or slowing to the general trend of defeats for the Bolivarian Cartel.

      • It has become a proverb of disdain in Ecuador: “pero tenemos carreteras”

        Odebrecht scandal? Political prisoners? A cowed and intimidated press? Ecuadorians having to cross the border into Colombia to buy goods b/c gvmt imposed 40-50% tax on imported goods? Hospitals with scant resources, in some cases staffed by Cuban “doctors” who anywhere else are not even qualified to be nurses?

        “Pero tenemos carreteras”

        • Here the refrain is “Pero tenemos patria.”

          At least you can drive on on your carreteras. Our “patria” no vale ni un coño!

          • Bill Bass does have a point though. Ecuador is nowhere near as bad as Venezuela, not yet at least. There is no equivalent there yet to the colectivos, and I don’t think the military is completely pro-Correa.

            However there are disturbing parallels. This election feels a lot like yours in 2013. We’ll see how hard Lasso fights on the recount.

          • It would seem a manual recount is not only advisable, but necessary, given that: most reliable exit polls gave the victory to Lasso by several points; Ecuador’s CNE is firmly in Oficialista hands; a few of Venezuela’s CNE cohorts visited the Ecuador Govt. prior to the elections (presumably to “tell them how to do it”); a 50-50 split LA country is not very governable long-term with questionable electoral results; and, the Oficialista claimed squeaker win was at the expense of heavy Govt. Oficialista campaign spending for the Oficialista candidate, which would be illegal in a normal non-LA democracy….

  5. One item which makes clear the difference between Ecuador and ourselves stands out , Correa couldnt change the rules to get himself reelected indefinitely ……In Venezuela Chavez got that , this is really crucial , I understand the Ecuadorian military have remained much more independent that is the case in Venezuela , Correa wasnt a career army man , Chavez was , so he knew how to work from the inside to scuttle the military institutionality and break it to pieces , an independent military are a strong bulwark to the authoritarian ambitions of leaders like Correa and Chavez. While I dont know that Correas style of economic governance has been as good as is desirable it was much less destructive than has been the case in Venezuela were the whole economy has been made into shambles , even if we had much more resources than Ecuador ever dreamed of having……!! Another example of the differences is taht many Venezuelan university professors who just couldnt make a living in Venezuela because of the regimes economic persecution of public universities have now moved to Ecuador at the invitation of the univesities there who were interested in their academic talents to fortify their higher education !!

    It appears that the Correa partisans realize that being percieved as too close to Chavez type of rule is the kiss of death to their political ambitions , so they are marking distance underscoring again and again that they are not Venezuela , meaning that they are not following the political or economic model of Chavez Venezuela , the language they ve used vis a vis the current Venezuelan institutional crisis has been more moderate than that used by Bolivia or Nicaragua , !! Although in their heart of hearts they may simpathyze with the Venezuelan regime but its clearly ceased to be a model they can celebrate as ideal, the mess that Venezuela has become is too great!!

    • Good points all.

      However, Correa did manage to get the rules changed to allow for perpetual reelection beginning in 2021. So it is possible we have not seen the last of him at the helm in Ecuador.

  6. Having the US dollar as the legal currency alters the situation substantially. It means inflation has been minimal, thus protecting peoples’ incomes.

    It also means that the most important mechanism for regime corruption, the favourable access to dollars for resale at a black-market rate, has been unavailable.

    The official candidate had a stronger record of government achievement to rely on than did Maduro.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here