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Presidential candidate Andrés Arauz appears at his final campaign rally in Quito before Ecuador’s election.
On 11 April, the people of Ecuador will cast their final vote to elect the country’s next president. But as we approach the second round of Ecuador’s presidential election, the attacks on its electoral process are escalating rapidly.
In the last month alone, we have seen calls for a military coup published in Ecuador’s most popular newspapers, efforts to disqualify candidates with false accusations of fraud, and an attempt to confiscate its voting databases for an illegal ‘audit’ of the first-round votes.
These tactics are designed not only to challenge the democratic institutions of Ecuador, but also for export to authoritarian actors around the world. With democracy in Latin America at a tipping point, Ecuador’s elections are set to send a signal across the region about the return of popular sovereignty — or the lethal force of legal warfare set against it.
The presidential elections in Ecuador arrive in a context of severe economic, social, and political crisis. Mismanagement of the Covid-19 pandemic has devastated communities across the country, with poverty rates soaring over 10 percent since the start of the pandemic and economic output falling by over 10 percent over the same time period. Doctors in Ecuador are now reporting a major spike in Covid-19 cases, adding to a death toll that ranks among the highest in the region.
Meanwhile, the Moreno government has been rocked by a vaccine scandal in which its members were caught red-handed giving out vaccines to their rich and powerful friends before the rest of the country. A wave of resignations from the Moreno government has followed, fueling discontent with a president who already ranked among the least popular politicians in Ecuadorian history — with an approval rate as low as 7 percent.
The 11 April elections therefore present a critical opportunity for the people of Ecuador to reclaim the constitutional rights that have been denied by the Moreno government. The right to health, to the right to decent work, and the right to popular sovereignty: Moreno and his friends at the International Monetary Fund have threatened the full range of fundamental rights with their aggressive agenda of austerity, liberalization, and privatization. The stakes of this election for all Ecuadorian citizens could not be higher.
But a range of political actors are now conspiring against them. Over the course of the last several weeks, we have once again seen attempts by actors inside and outside Ecuador to interfere and undermine the integrity of the electoral process.
Inside of Ecuador, the Office of the Prosecutor and the Office of the Comptroller have come together to attack the National Electoral Council with false charges of electoral fraud, calling to confiscate their digital databases and annul their first-round vote count.
Outside of Ecuador, the Attorney General of Colombia has colluded with the Office of the Prosecutor to attack candidate Andrés Arauz with absurd lies about a loan from the guerrillas of the National Liberation Army to his presidential campaign.
It is for this reason that the Progressive International is mobilizing again to Ecuador. During the first round of these elections, international observation delegations like ours played a critical role in resisting these anti-democratic pressures. Now, once again, bringing parliamentarians and data scientists from around the world, our delegation will travel across the country to help ensure free, fair, and transparent elections.
Our delegation is under no illusions about the enormity of this task. We have been attacked in the press, accused of fraud, and threatened with expulsion from the country. But we also recognize the global stakes of Ecuador’s struggle — and take inspiration from the courage of the Ecuadorian people to stand up for their rights to health, dignity, and popular sovereignty. We arrive to Ecuador with a commitment to stand with them.
David Adler is General Coordinator of the Progressive International.