Progressive comeback in Ecuador’s local elections

Ecuadorians rejected all eight measures in the recent referendum, which was promoted by conservatives, while the leftist Citizen Revolution Movement made significant gains

February 07, 2023 by Peoples Dispatch
On February 5, over 10 million Ecuadorians participated in the polls to elect local authorities and voted on several measures in a plebiscite aimed at amending the country’s constitution. Photo: CNE/Twitter

On Sunday February 5, over 10 million Ecuadorians participated in local elections, electing mayors, councilors, and prefectures, as well as the members of the Council for Citizen Participation and Social Control (CPCCS). According to preliminary results issued by the National Electoral Council of Ecuador (CNE), with over 98% of the votes counted, progressives emerged victorious in crucial regions of the country.

The Citizen Revolution Movement (RC), led by former president Rafael Correa, won the prefectures in nine of the 23 provinces. The RC also won mayor’s offices in sixty cities, including the capital Quito, and the country’s largest city, Guayaquil. Progressives were also elected for the prefectures in Azuay, Cañar, Guayas, Imbabura, Manabí, Pichincha, Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas, and Sucumbios.

The RC thanked the people of Ecuador for their support. “After more than six years of persecution, of taking away the legal status of our political organization, of unjustly imprisoning our comrades and forcing others to live in exile, in these 2023 sectional elections we demonstrated that we are the main and largest political force in Ecuador. We are more alive than ever…It is a historic victory…A new era begins to recover Ecuador from the territories, together with the people who know that we were better off before!” the party said in a statement.

Former President Correa (2007-2017) also celebrated his party’s victory in the country’s local elections. “We are once again the Citizen Revolution: we achieved the impossible. We are almost there. Until victory, always!” he tweeted along with a video of him singing a victory song.

On Sunday, citizens also participated in a constitutional referendum, promoted by conservative President Guillermo Lasso. The plebiscite had eight questions, which sought public approval to reform the 2008 Constitution in matters of security, institutions, democracy and the environment. Voters had to answer Yes or No to each of the questions. According to the preliminary results, the option ‘No’ won in all questions by a wide margin.

One of the eight questions asked if the extradition of Ecuadorians charged with felonies related to international organized crime would be allowed. Another one asked whether the State Attorney General’s Office would be granted autonomy and independence from the state. Another asked if the country should reduce the number of legislators in the National Assembly from between 130 to 150, depending on population size in provinces, to around 100. Ecuadorians rejected all these measures. Others sought approval to setting a minimum number of members for political movements and eliminating the power of the CPCCS to appoint state officials like the attorney general and comptroller. The questions on the issue of the environment asked if water protection subsystems be incorporated into the National System of Protected Areas, and if communities and people be beneficiaries of state compensation for their support for the generation of environmental services. Ecuadorians rejected all proposals.

President Lasso, who has an approval rating of around 30%, in a message to the nation on Monday night, recognized the results and accepted his government’s defeat in the referendum. “The objective of last Sunday’s referendum was always to listen to the people regardless of their proclamation…I accept that the majority doesn’t agree that these issues would be resolved with the tools put up for consideration in the referendum,” said Lasso.

The results of Sunday’s elections and popular consultation, which were viewed as a recall referendum for the Lasso administration, confirm a difficult scenario for the Lasso government, which has struggled to contain rising insecurity and widespread violence in prisons. In 2022, Ecuador recorded the highest rate of homicide in seven years: 19.6% per 100,000.

Since assuming office in May 2021, the president has faced numerous disagreements and clashed repeatedly with the opposition-controlled unicameral Congress. In June 2022, Indigenous, peasant and social organizations staged weeks-long national strikes and mass protests against the cost of living crisis, lack of opportunities and guarantees, and mining and oil exploration activities on their ancestral lands. These protests left six dead and over three hundred injured before reaching an agreement. Following the strike, the National Assembly held a vote to remove Lasso from power, which he narrowly escaped.

Days before the elections and referendum, several social organizations, trade unions and students associations rejected the plebiscite, arguing that the questions don’t solve fundamental demands of the population.

The RC, in the statement, also seconded the fact that the referendum didn’t address basic needs of Ecuadorians. “People said NO to this tricky consultation that does not solve the problems of insecurity, unemployment, poverty. This is a victory of our people, of our militancy, who never believed in lies, who in the face of hatred responded with love, who never lost hope of rebuilding a safe Ecuador, with health services and quality public education, with decent work, and development for the most vulnerable,” said the party.

“This victory is dedicated to all those who never stopped believing in our political project. This is only the beginning to recover our homeland. Our cinnamon-colored homeland that is indignant in the face of hunger, inequality and the abuses of neoliberal governments. Until dignity becomes custom!” the party added.

Sunday’s elections, which also served as an indicator for the 2025 general elections, ratified the strengthening of the RC in the country and the popular will to return to Correismo, which was characterized by large-scale social welfare programs and public infrastructure projects. During Correa’s 10-year tenure, Ecuador’s economy saw an average annual growth of about 3%.