By John Polga-Hecimovich*
Presidential candidate Guillermo Lasso (center, blue shirt) in Cuenca, Ecuador during a campaign rally last month. / Samurai Juan / Flickr / Creative Commons
General elections on Sunday could mark the beginning of the end of an impressive period of stability in Ecuador. Ecuadorians will elect a new congress and a replacement for the powerful and populist Rafael Correa, the longest-serving chief executive in the country’s history. Although the president’s handpicked successor, ex-Vice President Lenín Moreno is leading public opinion polls with 32 percent of likely voters in a crowded eight-candidate field, the chances of him winning a first-round victory outright are slim. Public approval of Correa and his ruling Alianza PAIS (AP) has fallen over the past two years as economic growth has slowed, and the administration is embroiled in allegations of corruption, including those against Jorge Glas Espinel, incumbent vice-president and Moreno’s running mate. Given Ecuador’s two-round presidential system, in which candidates must win by 10 percent or gain 40 percent of the vote, Moreno probably will end up in a run-off election on April 2.
- The other seven candidates are vying for the chance to face Moreno in the second round. Three of them poll between 8 and 21 percent, and the rest appear to have 4 percent or less of the vote. However, rejection of the entire field is high – nearly 12 percent of respondents say they will cast a null vote – and a whopping 35 percent maintain that they are undecided.
Moreno does not appear likely to win the runoff. The Economist Intelligence Unit predicts that voters will coalesce around an opposition candidate – most likely the CREO movement’s Guillermo Lasso, a conservative former economy minister and banker who ran a distant second to Correa in the 2013 presidential race – who would then defeat Moreno.
- If Moreno and Glas win, they will likely continue Correa’s leftist “Citizens’ Revolution,” especially its improvements to social welfare and emphasis on science and technology, and maintain close ties with China, which has become a key partner in trade and infrastructure investment over the past decade. If the opposition wins, it will try to repeal some of Correa’s onerous taxes, reverse stringent regulation of the media, shrink the size of the state, and seek improved relations with the U.S.
Regardless of who wins, the fragmented support for the candidates and their parties bodes poorly for Ecuador’s political stability, especially in the context of fiscal constraints, a stagnant economy, and burden of recovery from last April’s 7.8-magnitude earthquake. The so-called muerte cruzada (mutual death) in Article 148 of the country’s 2008 Constitution, moreover, will loom larger under a divided government. This clause gives the president a political “nuclear option” to dissolve the National Assembly in the event of gridlock, triggering new legislative and presidential elections – while the incumbent president is allowed to rule by decree on urgent economic matters in the interim. Correa, who enjoyed majority or near-majority government throughout his unprecedented ten-year presidency, never invoked the muerte cruzada, but his successor will feel stronger temptation to dissolve the Assembly in order to govern unilaterally. Ecuadorians should brace for an end to the country’s unprecedented political stability – and for the specter of Correa, much like the possibility of muerte cruzada, to loom large over the new government’s economic and political decisions.
February 17, 2017
* John Polga-Hecimovich is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the U.S. Naval Academy. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not represent the views of or endorsement by the Naval Academy, the Department of the Navy, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. government.
Posted by clalsstaff on February 17, 2017
By Carlos Monge*
An abandoned gold mining project in the Cajamarca region, Peru / Wikimedia / Creative Commons
The surprising emergence of the Frente Amplio (FA), a coalition of political parties, social organizations and independent activists, in Peru’s recent presidential and congressional elections signals the first significant support for the Peruvian Left since the collapse of the Izquierda Unida in the 1980s. The Left was not able to present its own alternatives in the ‘90s, the early 2000s, and again in 2011. In October 2015 barely 13 percent of Peruvians knew about FA’s internal election to select presidential candidates. Veronika Mendoza had the support of only 1 percent of intending voters, and over 60 percent of Peruvians did not even know who she was. Nevertheless, FA ended up receiving 18.74 percent of the vote in the first electoral round, coming in third and only a couple of points behind Pedro Pablo Kuczynski (PPK), who secured 21.05 percent and ended up defeating the Fuerza Popular’s candidate, Keiko Fujimori, to become President for the 2016-2021 period.
FA’s “post-extractivist” program has been key. Breaking away from the nationalist redistributive programs of leftists in Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Brazil, and Argentina, FA espouses economic diversification and tax reform rather than more mineral or hydrocarbon exports to sustain economic growth and public incomes. FA also emphasizes the need to protect the environment and renewable natural resources for future generations and to recognize indigenous rights to territories, autonomy, direct political representation and effective consultations.
- These are not only electoral campaign ideas. Indeed, FA local activists and national leaders have maintained staunch opposition to emblematic mining projects such as the Conga project in the northern Cajamarca region and the Tía María project in southern Arequipa. In the same way, FA is denouncing that the new government is trying to lower air quality environmental standards to ease foreign investments in mineral smelters and has harshly criticized the new Minister of Production for abandoning the National Plan for Productive Diversification launched by the outgoing Ollanta Humala administration.
- Frente Amplio is grounded in social movements that have long confronted extractivist projects. Veronika Mendoza left President Humala’s Nationalist Party in 2012 in a dispute over his repressive response to socio-environmental protests around mining projects in the highlands of her native Cusco. Tierra y Libertad, FA’s largest party, has its roots in the Cajamarca rondas campesinas resistance against the Conga project. Another factor is that the end of the commodities “super cycle” has moved extractive rents off center stage. Even in Venezuela the official discourse is now moving in the direction of economic diversification.
Frente Amplio is not alone in Latin America in attempting to build a post–extractivist platform, but it seems to be the region’s most successful. Similar policies were at the heart of the presidential campaign of Alberto Acosta and a coalition of social and indigenous organizations in Ecuador. And in El Salvador, the Farabundo Martí government is also keeping extractivist temptations at bay. But Acosta did not manage to get significant support or to build a stable political alternative, and El Salvador is not a major commodity exporter. The importance of the FA experience is that it happens in a significant mineral and gas producer, that it has had immediate electoral success, and that it can become a permanent political player in Peruvian democracy. FA and PPK will probably agree on issues such as the fight against corruption, crime, and violence against women, but they will certainly disagree over macroeconomic and sector policies, such as taxes. Also, FA has denounced PPK for his call to lower air pollution standards and for his authorization to large fishing factories to operate up to 5 km off the coast, leaving very little for artisanal, small scale, internal market-oriented fishing activities. Where this ends up is anybody’s guess, but this is certainly a process worth keeping an eye on.
August 29, 2016
*Carlos Monge is Latin America regional director at the Natural Resource Governance Institute in Lima.
Posted by clalsstaff on August 29, 2016
By Aaron T. Bell
Photo credit: Frente Amplio (FA) / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA
Uruguay’s elections on October 26 – once seen as a sure bet for the ruling Frente Amplio’s presidential candidate, former president Tabaré Vázquez (2005-2010) – have become a tight race, perhaps signaling challenges for other left-leaning Latin American governments as well. The FA’s slight slip in the polls since the beginning of 2014 has been matched by sustained growth by the Partido Nacional, led by Luis Lacalle Pou, the son of a former president. While Vázquez still holds a ten-point lead, he’s well below the absolute majority needed to avoid a run-off election, whose numbers look even bleaker for the ruling party. In February, Lacalle Pou was running twenty-five points behind Vázquez in a head-to-head matchup, but the latest polls now show him only two points back. Lacalle Pou will need the support of his party’s long-time rival, the Colorado Party, to win a second round against the FA, but Colorado candidate Pedro Bordaberry has thus far refused to concede the first round to the PN despite trailing them by 17 points. Nonetheless, Vázquez was defeated by just such a second-round alliance in 1999. Complicating things for him, polling strongly suggests that FA could lose control of both houses of the national legislature this fall.
The Lacalle Pou campaign has focused on public security and education. Uruguay’s homicide rate remains one of the lowest in the region, but a modest increase in crime in recent years has spurred both urban and rural Uruguayans to rank security as the principal problem facing the nation – well ahead of the second leading concern, education. The October elections will coincide with a referendum on lowering the age of criminal responsibility from 18 to 16 for serious offensives, with polls showing Uruguayans closely divided but leaning toward approval. On the education front, the FA’s Plan Ceiba has helped provide laptops to every student, but 2012 assessment data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development still place Uruguay’s students well below the international average in math, science, and reading.
The FA’s political situation is paradoxical: it has presided over major socioeconomic improvements in the last decade and won international acclaim, but earned a more tepid response at home. Uruguay’s decision to legalize marijuana was widely celebrated abroad as a step toward a more progressive drug policy in the region, but polls continue to show that a majority of Uruguayans oppose legalization, and it has not won the FA much support even among proponents of cannabis, who have resisted the creation of a registry of buyers. (Vázquez recently suggested the registry would be used to develop rehabilitation programs.) The FA seems to have not yet figured out how to respond effectively to the perception of insecurity, nor has it overseen a decided improvement in education, which is central to long-term development prospects. With Brazil’s Partido dos Trabalhadores facing an uncertain future, and political crises in Argentina and Venezuela simmering, the FA may be the first case of a larger regional rollback of the first wave of 21st century leftwing movements.
September 30, 2014
Posted by clalsstaff on September 30, 2014