On Sunday, voters elected Guillermo Lasso, a former banker and a supporter of free-market policies, as president of Ecuador over Andrés Arauz, a left-wing populist. Some analysts are decrying the end of progressivism, but what we are really seeing is a welcome setback for a strange form of strongman politics: the phenomenon of former presidents seeking to extend their control and influence by choosing and backing their protégés in national elections.
Mr. Arauz was handpicked by former President Rafael Correa, a semiauthoritarian economist who governed Ecuador from 2007 to 2017. The election was a referendum not just on the role of the state in the economy but also more fundamentally on the question, “What, if any, role should former presidents play in politics?”
In Latin America, it has become normal for former presidents to promote surrogate candidates. This is a bizarre form of caudillismo, or strongman politics, combined with continuismo, or lineage continuity, intended to keep rivals at bay.
Today, former presidents are the new caudillos, and they are hoping to extend their rule through their chosen heirs — in what is called delfinismo, from “dauphin,” the title given to the heir apparent to the French throne in the 14th through 19th centuries.
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