Andrés Arauz warns of plans to obstruct second round presidential elections in Ecuador

Progressive candidate Andrés Arauz denounced actions of the prosecutor’s office and the comptroller’s office to seize electronic electoral information as an attempt to prevent run-off elections from taking place.

February 23, 2021 by Tanya Wadhwa
At a press conference on February 21, Andrés Arauz of the progressive Union for Hope alliance (UNES) warned the international community of the plans to obstruct the second round of presidential election in Ecuador. Photo: Andrés Arauz/Twitter

Andrés Arauz of the progressive Union for Hope alliance (UNES), on February 21, warned the international community of the plans to obstruct the second round of presidential election in Ecuador. At a press conference on Sunday February 21, Arauz, the winner of the first round of presidential elections, denounced the seizure of the computer equipment of the National Electoral Council (CNE) by the prosecutor’s office and the comptroller’s office and deemed it an attack against democracy, intended to suspend the upcoming run-off election.

Arauz said that “please be informed that there is a concrete threat that the CNE’s computer equipment is being removed from its premises so that it is placed in the custody of the police or of the prosecutor’s office, which would prevent the second round of elections from taking place.”

On February 20, the comptroller’s office sent the CNE a request to audit the electoral process and the computer systems. On February 21, the prosecutor’s office opened an investigation to collect information from the systems and carry out a forensic audit by technical experts. The process stems from a complaint filed by Yaku Pérez of the Pachakutik Plurinational Unity Movement party, who did not make it to the run-off and alleged that electoral fraud had been committed.

The investigation began a few hours after the CNE announced the official results of the general elections held on February 7. On February 21, at around 3 am, the CNE announced that Arauz and Guillermo Lasso of the right-wing Creating Opportunities  ( CREO) party and Social Christian Party (PSC) would face off in the run-off election on April 11. On February 19, the CNE had indicated that Arauz and Lasso would proceed to the second round, and Pérez had rejected these results.

Arauz said that his party respects the rights of all political parties and candidates, their appeals and requests for recount, but emphasized that those complaints should be presented to the CNE and should not be used as excuses to hinder the election calendar.

In this regard, Arauz rejected the interference of the state institutions in the midst of the electoral process and reported that his party had filed lawsuits against Prosecutor Diana Salazar and Comptroller Pablo Celi in the Electoral Dispute Tribunal (TCE) for violating electoral laws and interfering in the electoral process. Arauz also called on the TCE to act expeditiously with the application of the law and the corresponding sanctions.

“There is only one electoral authority here (in Ecuador) and we strongly reject the interference and disrespectful meddling of other State institutions in the electoral system,” said Arauz.

Arauz also denounced that these incidents indicate possible hidden intentions of the government of President Lenín Moreno to extend its term, something that the majority of the population, he said, would disagree with.

“We are not going to accept this, with maneuvers, tricks and manipulations of the electoral justice, the government of Mr. Lenín Moreno Garcés wants to extend the term in office,” he said.

He finalized Sunday’s press conference by reiterating the call to the international community and election observers to remain vigilant in the face of the threat posed by the State’s intervention in the CNE.

National and international rejection of the interference

This act of interference has received strong national and international condemnation. Several national and international political and social leaders have deemed it a soft-coup, orchestrated by Moreno’s regime with support from the Organization of the American States (OAS). Many have called on the Ecuadorian people to save democracy.

Opposition candidate Guillermo Lasso also warned about the intervention by “outside authorities”. “I want to alert the public that events have occurred in the last few hours that should alarm all of us who defend democracy in Ecuador. 1. The police guard has been partially removed from the CNE. 2. Some authorities outside the process have intervened,” tweeted Lasso.

Arauz’s running mate, Carlos Rabascall, through a tweet called on the people to stand in defense of democracy. “Regardless of the political preferences of each person, the attempts of the prosecutor’s office and the comptroller’s office to intervene in the CNE must be rejected by every citizen who considers himself/herself a democrat, and a strong response from the electoral institutions is urgently needed,” wrote Rabascall.

The ombudsman’s office also issued a statement demanding that electoral authorities guarantee transparency, former candidates respect the official results, and non-electoral authorities refrain from meddling in the process.

The Progressive International also condemned the desperate attempts of the national and international right-wing forces to undermine the victory of the progressive coalition in Ecuador.

“Reactionary forces, both inside Ecuador and across the hemisphere, are leading a dirty and dishonest campaign to remove Arauz, delay the elections, and prevent the formation of a progressive, indigenous, and feminist bloc. Inside of Ecuador, the electoral authorities attempted an unprecedented vote “recount” that threatened to derail the democratic process. (…) Now, the Office of the Prosecutor is escalating efforts to dismiss the first-round results. (…) We are ringing the alarm: the government of Lenín Moreno is preparing a coup against democracy,” denounced the international organization in a statement.

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