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ECUADOR: Electoral tussle drags on as IMF deal frays

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Officially, Andres Arauz of the leftist Union for Hope (UNES) coalition – whose leader in the shadows is former president Rafael Correa (2007-2017) – and Guillermo Lasso of the center-right Creating Opportunities (CREO) party will contest a run-off presidential vote on 11 April. However, Yaku Perez of Pachakutik (PK), the political arm of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (Conaie), refuses to concede to Lasso following an extremely tight outcome in the 7 February first-round vote.

Post-election dispute

As expected, Perez yesterday, 1 March, filed an appeal with the TCE electoral court to demand a more extensive vote recount. This comes after the National Electoral Council (CNE) reviewed 31 vote tally sheets, a tiny proportion of the roughly 20,000 tally sheets that Perez says need auditing for irregularities. The tally sheet review saw Perez re-assigned some 600 votes, prompting him to assert that if this correction was replicated across 20,000 tally sheets, it would be enough to push him ahead of Lasso (who only beat Perez by 32,600 votes).

Perez’s chances now hinge on the TCE, which must settle the dispute quickly. The run-off campaign formally kicks off on 16 March. Meanwhile, the CNE position is that Lasso and Arauz are the candidates who made it through to the run-off. Note that the TCE and CNE have butted heads previously. Furthermore, the TCE must make its decision against the backdrop of protests by indigenous groups, even if these have not been as consequential as some expected. Paradoxically given Perez’s successful first round result, the indigenous movement is divided and it is not clear that Perez’s challenge enjoys the wholehearted support of Conaie.

PK as a third way

Amid the post-vote controversy and while still refusing to concede, Perez has signaled more clearly his position towards an eventual Lasso versus Arauz head-to-head, calling it a “third way.” In other words, and assuming the run-off is between Lasso and Arauz, Perez will back neither candidate on 11 April but instead intends to use the PK position in the National Assembly to build a new left-leaning, anti-Correista platform.

Internal divisions within Conaie and PK may well mean Perez’s vision is fanciful. Be that as it may, Perez’s position underlines the difficulty of Lasso’s task, while highlighting the fundamental truth that arises in the event of a Lasso versus Arauz run-off: it will be easier for Arauz to pick up votes among Perez supporters and from those who backed the fourth-placed Xavier Hervas than it will be for Lasso to unite Perez and Hervas to his cause. Arauz has been courting the prominent indigenous leader Jaime Vargas, who is not on the best of terms with Perez, as part of the Correista candidate’s newly moderate stance, which has also seen him endorse dollarization, profess that he is ready to talk with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and pledge to respect institutional checks and balances.

IMF

Whoever wins will face an immediate showdown with the IMF after the outgoing National Assembly leadership again blocked a bill to reform the Central Bank (BCE)’s legal framework. Passage of the bill is a key IMF condition, without which the next tranche of USD 400mn due in April will be paused, creating an immediate challenge for the new administration, which takes office in May.

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ECUADOR: Electoral tussle drags on as IMF deal frays

Officially, Andres Arauz of the leftist Union for Hope (UNES) coalition – whose leader in the shadows is former president Rafael Correa (2007-2017) –