QUITO, Ecuador – Just days before Sunday’s presidential election, Lenín Moreno of the outgoing leader Rafael Correa’s left-wing Alianza PAIS coalition is leading in the polls but is unlikely to win outright in the first round.
Rafael Correa, the incumbent, is barred from running for the presidency again due to term limits. His supporters easily gathered enough signatures to hold a constitutional amendment referendum to allow Correa to run again but he insisted that he would finish his term in May and retire from politics.
Instead, Lenín Moreno, Correa’s second-in-command from 2007 to 2013, would run as the candidate of the left-wing Alianza PAIS coalition. Moreno’s running mate, Jorge Glas, succeeded him as Vice-President and has been serving in that position since 2013.
The high level of support Correa enjoys has translated to Moreno, according to a poll conducted by the Quito-based agency Center for Research and Specialized Studies (CIEES).
The CIEES poll showed that Moreno was by far the most popular candidate with 43.3 percent of the vote.
In a distant second with 21.3 percent is Guillermo Lasso, a businessman, banker and politician that represents the center-right CREO party. Lasso ran against Correa in the 2013 election where the latter emerged victorious in the first round through a landslide victory of 57.17 percent to Lasso’s second-placed 22.68 percent.
In third place in the CIEES poll is Cynthia Viteri, a lawyer and politician representing the center-right/right-wing Social Christian Party with 12.6 percent. Viteri previously presented herself for the 2006 election but finished fifth with 9.63 percent of the vote and did not qualify for the run-off second round.
Paco Moncayo, a former military commander and mayor of Quito, is third in the poll with 10.8 percent of the vote, a figure that likely puts the center-left candidate of the Democratic Left party out in the first round.
In fourth place and the final candidate to have a significant amount of support, although certainly not enough to advance, is Abdalá “Dalo” Bucaram II with 6.6 percent.
Bucaram is a former professional footballer and politican that belongs to the center-right populist Fuerza EC party, which he recently founded. He is best known as the son of the unpopular Abdalá Bucaram, who served as President of Ecuador from August of 1996 to February of 1997 before he was impeached by congress and later fled to Panama, where he remains today, as he faces corruption charges in Ecuador.
The poll, which carried a margin of error of 3 percent, was paired with another segment: voting intentions. Carlos Coronel, the director of CIEES, noted that it was important to point out that just under 53 percent of those polled said they already decided on a candidate.
On the other hand, 22 percent said they have not decided but are leaning toward a candidate while another 24 percent said they have not decided at all who will get their vote.
The difference that the undecided voters will eventually make is important, especially in the first round.
According to the Ecuadorian Constitution, a candidate wins the election outright if they emerge victorious in the first round with a vote of over 50 percent or a vote of 40 percent plus a lead of 10 percent over the next closest challenger.
The CIEES poll results indicate that Moreno could win the presidency in the first round, but polls conducted by other Ecuadorian agencies show that, although he is still by far the most popular choice, Moreno would need to face off with Lasso in the run-off round.
If necessary, that second round of voting is tentatively scheduled to take place on April 2.
Some 12.8 million eligible voters will go to the polls this Sunday to vote for the presidency and all 137 seats in the unicameral National Assembly. As is the case with the presidency, those assembly seats will be for a term of four years.
In Ecuador, voting is mandatory for those 12.8 million eligible voters over the age of 18 while nearly 400,000 Ecuadorians abroad are also eligible to vote, although their participation is optional.
Last week on Friday evening, the Electoral Observation Mission of the Organization of American States (OAS) arrived in Ecuador to begin its work for this election.
Leonel Fernández, a former leader of the Dominican Republic, will head the OAS observation mission in Ecuador that is comprised of over 60 international observers that are, according to the OAS, “experts in the organization, technology, registration and execution of electoral processes” as well as “campaign financing and applicable laws.”
Fernández and the team have already been in Ecuador twice this year to prepare for the election and had meetings with the various figures important in the electoral process. Furthermore, two “mock elections” were already held for preparation purposes in Quito and Guayaquil by the team this year.