Ecuadoreans weigh economic and security pledges in presidential ballot
Ecuadoreans are gearing up to select their next president on Sunday, evaluating promises to boost the economy and tackle the escalating security crisis in the country. The two leading candidates vying for the presidency are a businessman from a wealthy banana family and a leftist woman aiming to become the nation’s first female leader.
Concerns and Priorities of Voters
The primary concerns of voters revolve around the struggling economy, which has been further impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to a significant increase in emigration. Additionally, rising crime rates, including a surge in murders, robberies, and prison riots, are major issues that need urgent attention.
Violence and Security Situation
The outgoing government attributes the escalating violence to drug cartels. The campaign was marred by a shocking incident when Fernando Villavicencio, an anti-corruption candidate, was fatally shot in August while leaving a campaign event in Quito. This incident highlights the urgent need to address the security situation in the country.
Candidates and Their Promises
Daniel Noboa, a 35-year-old business scion, is leading in recent polls. However, the margin between him and Luisa Gonzalez, a protégé of former President Rafael Correa, is narrow according to two surveys. Gonzalez, a 45-year-old former lawmaker, secured 34% of the vote in the first round.
Gonzalez pledges to reinstate popular social spending reminiscent of Correa’s tenure, including free medicine, increased worker protections, and direct aid to those in need. She also plans to allocate $2.5 billion from international reserves to stabilize the economy.
Noboa, an ex-lawmaker and the son of the well-known banana magnate Alvaro Noboa, unexpectedly entered the run-off with 23% of the vote in the first round. He has focused on job creation, particularly for the youth.
The outgoing President, Guillermo Lasso, called for early elections to avoid impeachment over allegations of disregarding embezzlement warnings related to a state company contract, which he denies.
The winner of the election will have a relatively short term, governing only from December 2021 to May 2025, when the next regularly-scheduled elections will take place.
Undecided Voters and Market Impact
In the final days of the campaign, many voters remain undecided. A victory for Noboa may initially be perceived positively by investors. However, the long-term market outlook will depend on his choice of top officials and their policies.
Security Measures and Combating Crime
Both candidates have emphasized the need to improve security at ports and airports, which are hotspots for drug smuggling. Gonzalez plans to construct a new prison outside Guayaquil and reclaim the country from criminals. Noboa proposes holding the most dangerous convicts on prison boats and utilizing technology to combat crime.
Political Backing and Youth Appeal
Gonzalez enjoys strong support from Correa’s Citizens’ Revolution party, while Noboa established his own party, National Democratic Action. Both candidates have made efforts to attract young voters, who make up a significant portion of the electorate.
With Ecuadoreans facing crucial decisions on the country’s economic and security future, the outcome of this election will have a lasting impact on the nation.