Ecuador: Government tries to ban left from election

UNES presidential candidate Andrés Arauz Ecuador elections
UNES presidential candidate Andrés Arauz.

The establishment are trying every trick to exclude leading opposition ticket Union for Hope (UNES) from the presidential election.

Ecuador’s Electoral Disputes Tribunal (TCE) denied the UNES ticket final certification on November 29. The TCE ordered the National Electoral Council (CNE) to review charges against UNES presidential candidate Andrés Arauz and vice-presidential candidate Carlos Rabascall and possibly exclude them from the election.

Arauz has consistently polled as one of the two candidates likely to win the February 7 election, or to be in the runoff in April.

UNES is the most popular left/progressive electoral alliance in the country, and is allied with former president Rafael Correa.

“Ecuador is currently going through a coup attempt against our democracy ... and we must put a stop to it,” said Arauz.

“It is important to understand the goals of the current government in regards to the election. First, they want to stop our presidential ticket from being on the ballot ... removing us from the ballot would set a disastrous precedent for all of our Americas.”

Arauz also accused the government of working secretly behind the scenes to delay the elections.

According to El Universal, Arauz claimed the government had already made presentations to the international community with a rationale for a postponement and that some members of the CNE were secretly preparing a new election calendar and talking points to justify it.

Arauz and UNES have called for international support to protect their right to run in the elections.

Argentinian President Alberto Fernandez tweeted: "Democracy is not built by excluding political actors. That is what happens with Andrés Arauz in Ecuador, whose registration as a presidential candidate is delayed for no reason.

"We must guarantee that in Latin America the rule of law functions fully."

According La Republica, a document calling for Arauz and UNES to be included in the elections has been signed by former Latin American presidents Lula Da Silva (Brazil), Fernando Lugo (Paraguay), José Mujica (Uruguay), Tabaré Vásquez (Uruguay) and Evo Morales (Bolivia).

‘Bolivia effect’

Ecuador's establishment has rallied behind the candidacy of Guillermo Lasso, a banker backed by an alliance of Ecuador's two largest right-wing parties. Lasso came close to winning the presidency in 2017, narrowly losing to current President Lenín Moreno, who is not seeking re-election.

There is apparently growing concern among the establishment that Lasso may not be able to beat Arauz. Polls have consistently shown the two candidates in a tight race.

Establishment concerns appear to have risen since the elections in nearby Bolivia, in which Luis Arce and the Movement Towards Socialism won a big victory. Polls had predicted a second round runoff and a close election, but Arce easily won in the first round by 25%.

There is concern that polling, which is currently predicting a close election and a runoff between Arauz and Lasso, may be as wildly inaccurate. One question is whether corporate polling organisations accurately poll the poor, who constitute the great majority.

Many Arauz supporters are expecting Arauz to win in the first round.

There has been no coverage of these developments by any corporate media outlet in the English-speaking world. If an attempt to eliminate the leading opposition party had happened in Venezuela, every major English-language corporate media outlet would have reported it immediately. However, because it is happening in Ecuador, a government currently aligned with the United States and major Western European powers, and because it is happening to a party on the political left, there is a news blackout.

The charges against the Arauz-Rabascall ticket and UNES were filed by two individuals — Carlos Arboleda, former energy minister in the government of former President Lucio Gutiérrez, and Wilson Freire — however, it is widely assumed they are acting on behalf of Ecuador's establishment. The substance of their argument for Arauz’s exclusion is entirely technical, procedural and arcane.

Politically motivated

In Ecuador, a registered and recognised political party can form an alliance with another and jointly present candidates in an election. Two electoral parties united to form UNES for this election.

Abroleda and Freire argue that one of the parties, Fuerza Compromiso Social (Social Commitment Force, FCS), was not properly registered at the time the CNE recognised UNES as an official electoral alliance.

The CNE considered the question of FCS’s registration and decided on October 1 that it did qualify as an officially recognised party. Now the CNE has been ordered to reconsider that decision.

Critics charge that the attempt to disqualify FCS is fundamentally politically motivated. More than 280 political parties are officially recognised in Ecuador. In regional elections, held in March last year, FCS proved to be one of the most popular parties, winning Prefect of Pinchincha Province, where the capital Quito is located.

That one of the most popular parties, if not the most popular one, could be disqualified, while hundreds of much less popular parties are qualified to compete in the elections is profoundly undemocratic. That such a disqualification could be on purely technical grounds is appalling to many.

To date, fifteen other presidential tickets have been given final certification to run in the election. Only the Arauz-Rabascall ticket is yet to receive it.

It is possible the CNE will eventually rule to allow the Arauz-Rabascall ticket to run. But even if it does, their campaign has already been seriously damaged by these efforts, according to Rabascall.

“Lately, when Andrés or myself are interviewed, all the questions are about the status of our presidential ticket, when, for all intents and purposes, we should be talking about our government plan and how our policies will help the people, so we can all drag Ecuador out of this political, economic and social crisis,” said Rabascall. “These are their distractions.”

Citizens’ Revolution Movement

The attempt to disqualify Arauz and UNES is part of a years-long campaign to obstruct, impede and discredit the largest electoral force on left, Movimiento Revolución Ciudadana (the Citizen's Revolution Movement, CRM).

First, the CNE repeatedly denied CRM registration as a separate political party. After CRM was able to join with FCS and run candidates on that party's list, FCS’s registration was challenged.

Numerous CRM leaders, including Correa, have been prosecuted and convicted on dubious corruption charges, and there have been daily propaganda attacks against the CRM by virtually all news outlets for almost four years.

The real objection Ecuador's establishment has to Arauz is that he is an ally of Correa.

UNES tried to register Correa as its vice-presidential candidate until it was forced to replace him with Rabascall. Correa, who lives in exile in Belgium, and a number of his allies were convicted of corruption and sentenced on April 8 to eight years in prison, and prohibited from running for office for 25 years. Critics have charged that the prosecution was politically motivated, without credible evidence, and a type of political repression known in Latin America as “lawfare”.

To Ecuador's political and economic establishment, Correa is a bogeyman and a threat to their power and wealth. Correa is portrayed as a dangerous and corrupt socialist revolutionary, who, along with his associates, will turn Ecuador into another Venezuela.

In truth, Correa was a moderate reformer and his government was much less radical than Venezuela’s. While the establishment considers Correa to be tantamount to a communist dictator, he is more accurately described as a democratic socialist reformer.

COVID-19 recovery

Arauz is far from the dangerous rabble-rousing left populist the establishment would like to portray him as. He is soft spoken and more of an academic and a technocrat. He has a doctorate in Economic Finance from the National Autonomous University of Mexico and was doing further graduate studies before he decided to run for president.

Arauz served in Correa's government as the Director of the Central Bank of Ecuador from 2011-13. In 2015, Arrauz was appointed Minister of Knowledge and Human Talent. At 35 years of age, Arauz is from a younger generation than Correa. His style is much less combative.

Arauz and UNES’s campaign platform has focused on recovery from the devastation caused by COVID-19 and a steep economic decline, rather than on building “Socialism for the 21st Century”, as Correa did.

Lasso favours neo-liberalism, including close relationships with the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank; a foreign policy closely linked to that of the US, including hostility to the government of Venezuela; an austerity budget including cuts to social services and government layoffs; and privatising state-owned industries and assets.

Arauz rails against neo-liberal economics and stands for prioritising social spending over satisfying the interests of international capital, an independent and multilateral foreign policy, including recognition of the government of Venezuela; reduced government layoffs; re-nationalising privatised state businesses; with a focus on providing more assistance to the most needy.

Yuku Perez and the Pachakutik Plurinational Unity Movement party may play a wild card role in the election. Pachakutik is an Indigenous party. Like UNES, Pachakutik professes a politics that is against neoliberal economics, but it clashed with Correa over issues of resource extraction. Perez has been polling in third place. If there is a runoff, and Perez is not in it, which way will Pachakutik voters go?

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