The election on February 19 in Ecuador was another severe blow for the left in Latin America. After presidential election defeats in Argentina in 2015 and Peru in 2016, legislative vote setbacks in Venezuela in 2015, a referendum defeat in Bolivia in 2016 and municipal election losses in Brazil and Chile in 2016, Latin America’s left was hoping for a clean sweep in the presidential and legislative elections in Ecuador.
After almost two decades of electoral dominance in Latin America, left-wing coalitions are struggling at the polls. During the years of fat cows, voters preferred left-wing leaders, who implemented redistributive policies. Now that the region has entered the years of skinny cows, voters seem to be turning to right-of-centre, pragmatic leaders who campaign offering ways to restore growth and promote employment.
After 10 years in power, Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa resisted the temptation to modify his own Constitution to try to remain in power after the end of his second term. His decision to step down allowed the Alianza País governing coalition to nominate a candidate without the baggage of a decade in power. Sadly, Presidents Correa gave up a precious opportunity to let his supporters choose the coalition’s presidential candidate. He anointed former vice-president Lenin Moreno as his successor, undermining Moreno’s chances by making him an easy target for the opposition, who labelled him as Correa’s puppet. Far less controversial than the president, Moreno nonetheless had an opportunity to reach out to moderate voters. The candidate tried to offer change in an overall context of continuity. Since left-wing coalitions in Latin America have been prone toward concentrating power excessively on an iconic figure, the fact that Correa acquiesced and stepped down turned Moreno into a powerful electoral weapon that made Alianza País more competitive, at least in theory.
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