Correa government loses Ecuador capital in local election
THE AMAZON PINK DOLPHIN’S VOICE
SELVA-Vida Sin Fronteras. 26/02/2014
Correa government loses Ecuador capital in local election
Opposition candidates won elections to run the local governments of the capital Quito and industrial city Cuenca, and maintained control of the economic capital and port city of Guayaquil in an unsettling result for the government.
“Quito is an important setback for the Citizen’s Revolution because it is important for stability,” Correa, speaking to reporters at the headquarters of his Alianza Pais or Country Alliance party, said in reference to his socialist political project for the country.
Correa said the loss of Quito could make the country “ungovernable” and accused associates of the winner, Mauricio Rodas, of links with the “fascist right” wing in Venezuela, saying they were “counting the days for the government to fall”.
Venezuela has been shaken by a fortnight of violent opposition protests over inflation, crime and economic shortages that its socialist President Nicolas Maduro has blamed on “fascists” seeking a coup with the backing of the United States.
But analysts say the defeat reflects dissatisfaction among the electorate over the Correa administration’s perceived interference in local government and over his harsh criticism of opponents during the campaign.
Ecuador is the smallest member of the OPEC group of oil producing nations, with output averaging 520,000 barrels per day in January.
Former presidential candidate and lawyer Mauricio Rodas, 38, was elected mayor of Quito with 58.9 percent of the vote and Jaime Nebot secured re-election in Guayaquil with 57.5 percent of votes counted by late on Sunday, according to the National Electoral Council.
In the industrial city of Cuenca, Mauricio Cabrera had won 44.4 percent of votes, it said.
Correa said his movement had won the majority of city halls in the provinces but appeared to acknowledge the losses in the three biggest cities as a rebuke by the electorate.
“The biggest mistake we can make is believing that everything is won. It’s good that they gave us this shake-up so that it is known that nothing is yet irreversible and this is the revolution’s big challenge,” said Correa, who had appeared prominently in the campaign to support his party’s candidates.
But that failed to ensure re-election for outgoing Quito mayor Barrero whose management of the city steadily lost him popularity.
The elections were disputed by 5,651 candidates for the posts of prefect or governor, mayor or council member.
Correa had warned in the run-up to the elections that defeat in the capital city could make it harder to govern if opposition leaders used their power to destabilize the country, a “tactic” he said was behind the protests in Venezuela.
Incoming Quito mayor Rodas denied he would seek to use his post to destabilize the government and said he would focus on working for the good of the city.
Guayaquil victor Nebot, who has frequently clashed with Correa over projects to develop the city, in turn warned Correa to avoid meddling in local government.
“Never will I interfere with (Correa’s) functions because I’m a democrat. Don’t interfere with mine,” he said.
ECUADOR’S president, Rafael Correa (pictured right), is setting records for the length of time he has spent in office with every day that passes. He remains very popular. Even so, his country’s voters dealt Mr Correa a blow on February 23rd. In city after city, Ecuadoreans handed victory to opposition candidates, leading to long faces at the headquarters of Alianza Pais (AP), Mr Correa’s political vehicle. The loss of the capital, Quito, where a centrist candidate, Mauricio Rodas trounced the incumbent AP mayor, Augusto Barrera (pictured left), smarted the most. “What has happened in Quito is very sad and dangerous,” said Mr Correa.
AP also failed to capture Mr Correa’s hometown, Guayaquil, the country’s largest city, and lost several other major cities like Cuenca and Santo Domingo de los Tsátchilas to opposition challengers. It failed to win any of Ecuador’s ten-biggest cities. Mr Correa insisted that AP continues to be the biggest political force in the country, and that AP would probably end up capturing around 100 of the 221 local governments up for grabs, along with the governments of major provinces. “There were local factors that produced the results,” said the president, blaming AP for sectarianism and complacency. “They will be analysed.”
Mr Barrera accepted responsibility for his defeat in Quito and pledged a smooth transition; Mr Rodas has promised to continue some of his rival’s projects, in particular a plan to build an underground railway to relieve gridlock in the city of 2.3m people. But Mr Correa shares some of the blame. “In Quito, his participation was counterproductive,” says Juan Carlos Donoso, a political scientist at Universidad San Francisco de Quito.
The final weeks of campaigning coincided with protests by doctors over a malpractice law and a farcical government investigation of a cartoonist, pushing Mr Barrera’s re-election bid off-course. Worried by the mayor’s decline in opinion polls, Mr Correa sent two open letters begging Quiteños for their vote, and then made the mistake of referring to problems with Mr Barrera’s “character” and telling voters to spoil their ballots rather than to vote for Mr Rodas. “That was a vote of no confidence” in Mr Barrera, says Mr Donoso.
The elections nonetheless confirm Mr Correa as the country’s dominant political figure. The opposition is fragmented. The conservative CREO movement, whose presidential candidate Guillermo Lasso came in second to Mr Correa last year, did not bother to participate in mayoral races in Quito, Guayaquil or Cuenca. Rival conservatives won in Guayaquil and Machala on the coast; left-wing opponents won in Cuenca and some areas of the Amazon. And the polls also show that AP itself has a thin roster of talent beneath Mr Correa. If the president wants his “Citizens’ Revolution” to last beyond 2017, the last year of his term, he may yet cast aside his promise not to seek a change to the constitution in order to stand for election again.
Source: The Economist
Editorial: SELVA-Vida Sin Fronteras
Gustavo López Ospina
Pieter Jan Brouwer
Assistant: Emilia Romero
SELVA Vida Sin Fronteras acknowledges Kevin Schafer’s important contribution towards protecting the highly endangered Amazon pink fresh water dolphin. Title photographs of our “The Amazon Pink Dolphin’s Voice” were taken by Mr. Schafer.