Ecuador likely to return Correa to presidency
Ecuadoreans voted for their president yesterday and were almost certain to give incumbent Rafael Correa a new term to advance an agenda of socialist economics and an expansion of state power that critics call authoritarian.
Victory for Mr Correa would cheer the leftist ALBA bloc of Latin American and Caribbean nations at a time when the group’s indisputable leader, Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez, is struggling to recover from cancer.
Foreign investors will watch a new Correa term closely for signs he will woo cash from abroad more vigorously to raise stagnant oil production and kick-start the nascent mining industry after years of confrontation with oil companies and bondholders.
Heavy state spending to expand access to healthcare, pave decrepit roads and build schools have given the combative economist a strong base of support among the South American nation’s poor.
Opinion polls show Mr Correa leading his closest rival by more than 35 percentage points. “The beauty of an electoral democracy is that citizens have their future in their hands, so it’s time to vote,” he said after voting in the capital, Quito, after the polls opened at 7am.
Critics say Mr Correa is a despot who tolerates no dissent and is intent on amassing power, but the opposition’s inability to unite behind a single candidate – seven opposition aspirants are running – has helped give Mr Correa a comfortable lead.
Surveys show his nearest rival, former banker Guillermo Lasso, with only between 9-15 per cent of the vote.
Mr Correa has built an image of nationalist man-of-the-people through theatrical confrontation with oil companies and Wall Street investors.
The only Ecuadorean president in the past 20 years to complete a full term in office, he is admired for bringing political stability to a nation in which leaders had been frequently toppled by violent street protests or military coups.
Local media and government officials said there had been no incidents during the first hours of voting.