South America

Ecuador determines its future in key poll - and maybe Assange's

Soldiers receive electoral material from staff of the National Electoral Council in Quito, Ecuador. Source: EFE

Ecuador votes in a crucial presidential election runoff on Sunday. Here’s why the race matters.

It’s a choice between left and right

Rafael Correa has led a socialist movement in Ecuador since becoming president in 2007 and winning three consecutive elections.

Poverty has been slashed as a result, but reliance on the extraction of natural resources remains a key issue.

Now the country must decide between Correa’s successor, Lenin Moreno from the PAIS Alliance, and a challenger from the centre-right CREO-SUMA Alliance, Guillermo Lasso.

Moreno plans to advance Correa’s citizens' revolution, campaigning on the basis of “a government for all”.

Ecuadorian presidential candidate Lenin Moreno.
Ecuadorian presidential candidate Lenin Moreno.
EFE

His proposals include the immediate creation of 40 technical universities and 325,000 new houses for the country’s poorest families.

His final campaign speech stressed the importance of taxes on the rich in the name of social solidarity.

Lasso, a former banker, has a neoliberal agenda and promises to generate a million new jobs within four years.

He has proposed the privatisation of public services, cuts to government spending and the removal of 14 taxes in order to attract foreign investment. 

Latin America's 'pink tide' is turning

Latin America has been riding a wave of leftist populism known as the ‘pink tide’, but recent events indicate a change of direction.

In 2015 Argentina voted in the centre-right Mauricio Macri after 12 years of government by the Kirchners.

Then in 2016, Michael Temer took power in Brazil, ushering in a new right-leaning agenda.

Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa.
Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa.
EFE

Meanwhile the deterioration of Venezuela has been generating a distrust of leftist economies.

The outcome of this election will be a defining moment in the history of Latin America’s twenty-first century socialism.

It's a tight race

Moreno came out ahead of Lasso in the first round but 33% of the population didn’t vote for either of them.

Now those people will have to choose between the two. If more than two-thirds of them vote for Lasso, he will have the majority he needs to win.

Opinion polls place Moreno in the lead but only by a small margin. In the most recent poll by CEDATOS, 45.7% chose Moreno and 41.5% chose Lasso.

The international vote matters

At least 12% of Ecuador’s population lives abroad. In Spain, voting is about to begin at polling places across the country to accommodate the 170,000 Ecuadorians eligible to vote there.

Australia’s Ecuadorian community is much smaller - around 2,000 people at last count.

Of those, 336 are eligible to vote in Sydney and 59 in Canberra.

Today they gathered at Redfern Town Hall and the Ecuadorian embassy in Canberra to have their say in the country’s future.

Guillermo Lasso, presidential candidate for the CREO political party.
Guillermo Lasso, presidential candidate for the CREO political party.
AP

The world might get its first paraplegic president

Lenin Moreno was shot in the back during a robbery in the country’s capital 19 years ago.

The attack left him suffering from paraplegia and bedridden for four years in what he describes as a slow and painful recovery.

After taking office as vice president in 2007 he implemented policies and programs that radically transformed the lives of people living with a disability.

His work on disability rights earned him global recognition, including a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2012.

Julian Assange's future is on the line

In an interview with The Guardian, Lasso said that if elected he would ask Julian Assange to leave Ecuador’s London embassy within 30 days.

He later confirmed this position in an exchange with the Miami Herald but said he would try to arrange refuge in another country’s embassy so that Assange’s rights are protected.

How such a transfer would happen is unclear though, and Assange could be apprehended and extradited as soon as he leaves the building.

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