Hailed for restoring stability to the central American nation, outgoing President Rafael Correa is expected to win an easy re-election Sunday. But economic woes may troubles Correa's second term.
REUTERS - Ecuadoreans voted on
Sunday in an election incumbent President Rafael Correa was
expected to easily win, even as the economy flags, because of
solid support for his welfare programs.
Polling stations were busy when they opened at 7 a.m. local
time/1200 GMT across the volatile Andean country of 14 million
people known as much for toppling presidents as its Galapagos
Islands and remote Amazon tribes.
A Correa win would confirm him as the most powerful leader in
Ecuador's 30-year-old democracy and mark another victory for a
generation of left-wing presidents like Venezuelan Hugo Chavez who
govern most countries in the region.
According to an opinion poll published on Sunday, Correa has
49 percent support, far more than his seven challengers.
He needs more than 40 percent of votes and a 10-point lead to
avoid a runoff election. Voters are also electing members of the
National Assembly and regional and municipal officials.
"We have formal democracy, our great challenge now is to build
true democracy, which means a more fair and more equal homeland,"
the 46-year-old Correa said after voting.
Critics say Correa is running roughshod over Ecuador's
democracy by concentrating power in the executive branch and
forming a tribunal his allies will likely dominate.
During two years in office he has fanned national pride by
standing up to oil and mining firms in a country where many blame
severe economic hardship on rapacious foreign investors.
But a risky decision last year to stop paying $3.2 billion of
debt he deemed "illegal" may backfire as he finds it harder to
borrow to cover spending promises amid falling oil revenues.
Slightly larger in area than Britain, Ecuador is a restless
country where street protests toppled three presidents during
economic turmoil in the decade before Correa took power.
"I voted for Correa because the country needs political
stability and because he has known how to use state resources,
said Karla Arcos, 38, voting in the fast-growing, working-class
town of Duran on the hot coastal plains.
"But if he commits the errors of his predecessors, we will
topple him like we did with so many others."
The former missionary, who keeps a photo of the Pope by his
desk along with photos of his friends Chavez and Brazilian
President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, vows to protect his poor and
lower-middle-class supporters from the global financial crisis.
Government figures show the Belgian- and U.S.-educated
economist has reduced poverty from 40 percent to 35 percent with
pensions, free school lunches and a higher minimum wage.
Correa's opposition is divided and weak, while left-wing
activists who helped oust former-President Lucio Gutierrez in
2005 now work in the government.
Gutierrez, a former coup leader, is running again for
president four years after he was deposed. He is a distant second
in the race, with 24 percent support in the survey by respected
pollster Santiago Perez. The poll was conducted on Saturday.
Correa said on Wednesday his "citizens' revolution" needs 80
years to bring about lasting change in Ecuador.
"It doesn't have to be me," he told Reuters in an interview in
the presidential palace. "It's not the person that matters, it's
that the process continues."
The new constitution passed last year means Correa will start
a four-year term if he wins on Sunday and can serve another four
years if he wins again in 2013.
Date created : 2009-04-26