Tintaji’s issue 88 explained how in a country like Ecuador where 80% of the population lives in poverty, it was this social sector that would define the national elections of October 15th, as was the case in earlier elections.
Taking into account that growth in support for Rafael Correa was at the cost of the social democrat Leon Roldos and that his votes came from a part of the population between the middle and upper-middle classes, while only a small percentage came from the poorer classes, it seemed obvious that it would be difficult for Correa to reach an electoral ceiling that would give him a comfortable win in the first round.
The election results (26.8% for the banana magnate Alvaro Noboa, 22.8% for left winger Rafael Correa, 17.4% Gilmar Gutierrez of the Patriotic Society Party, 14.8% for Leon Roldos, 9.5% for the right wing Cynthia Viteri, 2.5% for indigenous people’s leader Luis Macas) confirm that analysis and throw up a larger question mark for the second round of voting. How will Correa reach people living in poverty?
In 2002, Lucio Gutierrez (2) led into the second round and won the elections thanks to Pachakutik (3) because he symbolised the military-indigenous peoples union that took place in January 2000 and because it reached people living in poverty. But the most important thing for that electoral win was not that his candidacy represented a supposedly “anti-systemic” image, rather the basic thing was that a very important part of the urban and rural poor saw themselves represented by him. 80% of his vote stemmed from impoverished people.
For Correa at this moment, the support of the indigenous people’s movement – regardless of the election result, the country’s biggest and most important social movement – would represent symbolically for people not only the social base he lacks, but would help him change in part that “baby face” perception of him held by people in the poor barrios of Quito and Guayaquil and in indigenous and rural workers communities.
Although the 2.5% vote for Luis Macas may seem very low, it counts more as a symbolic projection of what that percentage represents in the sense that this social base may be very important as a point of entry for Correa to impoverished rural sectors in the run up to the second round, since they are politically conscious popular bases. Thanks to that they have elected parliamentary deputies in Zamora Chinchipe, Morona Santiago, Cotopaxi, BolÃvar, Chimborazo y CaÃ±ar and up to the close of this edition of Tintaji (October 18th) they are still fighting for the chance of getting parliamentary representation in Pichincha, Sucumbios, Orellana and Napo. But the alliance with the indigenous movement will not be enough, it is fundamentally important for Correa to tie up alliances with barrio associations, the most socially committed christian groups, with organizations of street sellers, so that they open the door for Correa to get into those sectors. And with progressive and left wing political parties and organizations.
It is also necessary for Correa to take on at least some of the codes of the impoverished classesso as to be able to communicate, setting aside his pronounced origins. And too that he should offer them concrete proposals, not the demagoguery of Noboa which is a kind of contempt for those classes, but possible proposals like an increase in solidarity payments, or the introduction of insurance for people with disability, street sellers, housewives below the poverty line or sex-workers, for example. Furthermore, to incorporate a proposal similar to Brazil’s “Zero Hunger” or Uruguay’s “Emergency Plan” that have managed to prioritise basic food needs for people in poverty. And also to consider proposals like the Missions developed in Venezuela but worked out from an Ecuadoran prespective and with a content relevant to Ecuadoran idiosyncrasies. And too he should increase his visits to popular sectors, prioritizng closer, more direct links and communication so he is not seen as someone distant.
Up until now, around the figure of Rafael Correa in Alianza Pais (4) have gathered people who represent “citizen” movements mostly linked to the middle and upper-middle classes or to “social” non-profits and non-governmental organizations without the capacity of mobilization on basic issues. But above all without the ability to build bridges with impoverished classes.
If people are surprised with the vote for Gilmar Gutierrez (5) it is because they do not understand their own country and still have not realised that the phenomenon of April 2005 was mostly an event led by Quito’s middle and upper-middle classes and that in the rest of the country Lucio Gutierrez not only held on to a certain sympathy from the lower and impoverished classes but also to social bases he had managed to build through clientilist networks and his alliance with popular sectors like indigenous people’s evangelical groups. But also with certain sectors that he managed to set against Leon Febres Cordero (6) he kept up an image as someone the oligarchy overthrew, who returned to imprisonment, who is now politically persecuted and was even refused permission to stand as a presidential candidate this time around. To all that one can add the disrepute of the government that succeeded him.
For those who really are profoundly familiar with Ecuador, Gilmar Gutierrez’ result across the country is no surprise, because even in Azuay he had a good result and in Pichincha it was as much as 10%. Television and the creative publicity of Correa (complete with the theme from” the Godfather”) does not reach an important number of the Ecuadorans who voted for Gutierrez. They are reached by whoever approaches their poverty wihtout fear or embarrassment and who commits themselves to be judged alongside them.
Perhaps the only thing that holds one’s attention is such a high vote for Gutierrez in provinces like Cotopaxi, where he practically did no campaigning at all and from there springs the doubt about possible anomalies in the presidential voting to the detriment of Luis Macas, since it is impossible to square the figures between his presidential votes and the much higher votes for paliamentary deputies and for the Andean parliament. In any case, with campaign publicity costs of less than US$4000 against millions (US$500,000 for Gilmar Gutierrez, US$662,000 for Fernando Rosero, US$1.1m for Cynthia Viteri, US$1.23m for Leon Roldos, US$1.75m for Rafael Correa, US$2.47m for Alvaro Noboa and US$100,000 for other marginal candidates) and facing various internal problems within Pachakutik, including boycotts, the candidacy of Macas, despite the low vote, has served to consolidate the strategic unity of the indigenous organizations and their ability to mobilize in future. That was seen expressed in the big campaign meetings in provinces with an indian population (8000 people in Riobamba, 5000 people twice in Guaranda, 6000 people twice in Latacunga, 5000 people in the campaigns closing meeting in Quito, big crowds in Cayambe, Orellana, Colta, Loja, Macas, Zamora, Puyo, Saraguro, Azuay), in the committed vote in various areas with an indigenous population and in the important level of the vote for parliamentary deputies and councillors in the country. All that they achieved with their own candidate who helped strengthen a popular and left-wing cultural identity.
Correa is playing a difficult stand-off with Noboa in the second round. His initial reactions, that showed his ingenuousness in thinking he could win in the first round, on learning of the results showed him put out of gear and lacking experience to face up to difficult moments. Facing into the second round, he and his close advisers need to take a bath in humility, betting on a team game so as to get as many and as varied players on the pitch as possible, making some team changes and also putting some close allies on ice. If they play for a draw they will end up losing.
It is time to form a great Social and Political Front in support of Rafael Correa and the changes Ecuador so urgently needs.
The problem is not that Correa might lose or that some individuals in the various circles around him around him may lose some future public post. The problem is that the country is at a crossroads: between the consolidation of an economically exclusive and politically authoritarian model with Alvaro Noboa – who also may well have a majority in the National Congress via alliances – and the possibility of setting off on a path of profound changes with a government of Rafael Correa which may lay the foundations for the country’s social. political and economic transformation
Translation CopyLeft by Tortilla con Sal
1. Ecuador holds a second round vote for its presidential election on November 26th between left wing candidate Rafael Correa and the oligarchy’s millionaire candidate Alvaro Noboa. Rafael Correa was regarded as a progressive Minister of the Economy in the current government of President Palacio. Many people believe his resignation from that post in 2005 was forced by pressure from the IMF.
2. Lucio Gutierrez, the Ecuadoran president who was forced into temporary exile in April 2005. Gutierrez came to prominence in January 2000 when President Mahaud was forced from office in favour of Vice-President Gustavo Noboa. Gutierrez won presidential elections in 2002, taking over office from Noboa in January 2003.
3. Pachakutik (Movimiento de Unidad Plurinacional Pachakutik-Nuevo PaÃs) is the main political movement representing indigenous peoples in Ecuador.
4. Alianza Pais – Rafael Correa’s electoral alliance.
5. Gilmar Gutierrez is the brother and was the political representative of Lucio Gutierrez in the elections of October 15th.
6. Leon Febres Cordero, the Ecuadoran oligarchy’s perennial political caudillo.