Latin America & Caribbean

Ecuador election: Who will succeed Rafael Correa?

Ecuador's National Electoral Council (CNE) personnel verify the electoral material in the outskirts of Quito on February 14, 2017. Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Ecuadoreans will go to the polls on Sunday to elect a new president

Ecuadoreans will go to the polls on Sunday to elect a successor to President Rafael Correa after three terms of what he and his administration have dubbed "21st-Century socialism".

Why does it matter?

After 10 years in power and three election wins, President Correa will not be running again, so change at the top is inevitable.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Rafael Correa will not run again after 10 years in power

When he was first elected in 2007, Mr Correa was one of a group of left-wing leaders in power in Latin America, including Argentina's Nestor Kirchner, Bolivia's Evo Morales, Brazil's Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Cuba's Raul Castro, Nicaragua's Daniel Ortega and Venezuela's Hugo Chavez.

Some observers spoke of a "pink tide" sweeping across the continent.

A decade on, Argentina and Brazil are led by conservative presidents, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro faces a hostile legislative and Evo Morales is on his last term after Bolivians rejected a proposal to change the constitution to allow him to run again.

Will Ecuadoreans follow the lead of Argentines and Peruvians and turn their backs on left-wing politics and favour a conservative candidate?

Or will they favour the man who served as Mr Correa's vice-president?

Who are the main contenders?

With Mr Correa not running again, his governing leftist Alianza PAIS (Country Alliance) party threw its weight behind former vice-president Lenin Moreno.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Lenin Moreno is the candidate for the left-wing governing Alianza PAIS political party

Despite having been a key figure in Mr Correa's cabinet between 2007-2013, Mr Moreno has sought to differentiate himself from the outgoing leader.

Challenged when he disagreed with the president about tax policies, Mr Moreno simply stated: "The President has the right to think differently. Each one decides in his own government."

Observers say the 63-year-old's style is less confrontational than that of Mr Correa and they suspect Mr Moreno may try to jettison some aspects of his predecessor's socialist policies.

As vice-president, Mr Moreno, who became paraplegic after being shot in the back in 1998, set out to improve the rights of people with disabilities.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Mr Moreno fought to make Ecuador more accessible to those with disabilities

Not only did he give motivational talks, he also published books on humour and happiness with titles proclaiming: "Being Happy is Easy and Fun".

Most recently, he served as UN Special Envoy on Disability and Accessibility.

Among his main campaign promises are increasing employment opportunities and ensuring that all Ecuadoreans have the chance to go on to higher education.

Most polls suggest Mr Moreno is likely to get a majority of the votes on 19 February, but not the 40% needed to win outright in the first round.

The 'business-friendly' man

His main rival is centre-right businessman and former presidential candidate Guillermo Lasso.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Guillermo Lasso

The 61-year-old is running for the Creando Oportunidades (Creating Opportunities) party.

A banker, Mr Lasso wants to create jobs by promoting foreign investment and has promised to cut taxes for big companies.

He also has plans to make Ecuador's central bank independent of the government. The youngest of 11 children, he says he wants to "create an Ecuador with opportunities for all".

'No government waste'

Hot on his heels in the polls is Christian-Socialist candidate Cynthia Viteri.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Cynthia Viteri has been catching up in the polls in recent weeks

The 51-year-old lawyer has also pledged to cut taxes to promote job creation. She wants to slash government spending by at least $700m (£560m) on existing programmes she calls "luxuries".

What awaits the winner?

If whoever wins the first round on 19 February does not get 40% or more of the vote, a run-off will be held on 2 April.

The eventual winner of the election will be sworn in to a four-year term in May.

Economic recovery is likely to be a top priority for Ecuador. The oil-exporting country has suffered from a drop in international oil prices and has seen its GDP contract 1.7% in 2016.

Corruption is another major problem with officials from Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht recently revealing that they paid close to $35.5m in bribes to Ecuadorean officials in exchange for contracts.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Brazilian construction company paid over 35 million dollars in bribes to Ecuadorean officials

Officials of Mr Correa's government, including his former energy minister Carlos Pareja, are also under investigation over the granting of contracts by state-owned oil company Petroecuador.

In foreign policy, the new president will have to deal with US President Donald Trump and his potentially more protectionist economic policies.

He or she will also have to adapt to a shift of alliances in the region, following the departure from power of left-wing governments in Argentina, Brazil and Peru over the last two years.

What is Mr Correa's legacy?

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption President Rafael Correa formed alliances with other left-wing Latin American leaders such as Hugo Chavez of Venezuela (right)

Rafael Correa was elected in 2007 on a promise of bringing radical social and political reforms to Ecuador.

During his tenure, Mr Correa increased government spending on social programmes and looked to diversify Ecuador's trade and political relationships.

He forged close ties with the left-wing regional group Alba, which includes Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela among others.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption China became Ecuador's main creditor after Quito's ties with the US cooled

He also moved Ecuador much closer economically to China, which is now one of the country's major creditors and trade partners.

Mr Correa has been credited with reducing poverty until 2014, when the oil price slump hit government revenue and its ability to finance poverty reduction programmes.

But recent corruption scandals and Mr Correa's frequent clashes with the media have produced some disillusionment.

One poll suggests 70% of Ecuadoreans want "important changes" to be made.

Voting is mandatory and more than 12 million people are entitled to vote for the president, the vice-president and also 137 seats in the legislature.

BBC Monitoring reports and analyses news from TV, radio, web and print media around the world. You can follow BBC Monitoring on Twitter and Facebook.

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