Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa Wins Another Referendum, but by Smaller Margin

By Saavedra, Luis Angel | NotiSur - South American Political and Economic Affairs, June 10, 2011 | Go to article overview

Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa Wins Another Referendum, but by Smaller Margin


Saavedra, Luis Angel, NotiSur - South American Political and Economic Affairs


The May 7 referendum once again pitted Ecuador's national government against the leftist social movements, this time with a positive outcome for the latter despite the administration's victory.

In numbers, the government won on all 10 referendum questions, with an average of 47.22% for the Yes position, while the No position, backed by leftist social movements and some rightist sectors, received 41% on average.

At first glance, the results show a rapid deterioration in President Rafael Correa's electoral support--dropping almost 35 points in the May consultation from the 81.7% that he obtained in the 2007 referendum on whether to convoke a constituent assembly NotiSur, April 20, 2007, followed by 64% in the vote to approve the new Constitution. But numbers are not everything, and the No vote is what has raised the most expectations.

Win by losing

In the indigenous world, apparently contradictory concepts are common, such as "to lead by obeying," which implies that those who govern have the authority to lead but always obeying guidelines from the social bases.

Similarly, to explain the left's positive result from this referendum, the phrase "to win by losing" is used, which implies formally recognizing the loss but converting it into greater strategic achievements.

The leftist movements' principal victory is in having finally revealed the government's turn to the right and in having consolidated an ideological opposition, which may be able to gain strength to become a viable option in the 2013 presidential elections.

The urban movements that have their electoral base in the middle class, such as Montecristi Vive, led by Alberto Acosta, a former minister and former president of the Asamblea Constituyente, the Participation movement of former minister Gustavo Larrea, and Ruptura de los 25, led by Deputy Maria Paula Romo have succeeded in identifying themselves as the ideological base of the political project that brought Correa to the presidency.

Those movements had maintained the hope that Correa would correct his administration's political direction and return to the leftist base that characterized it in the beginning. For that reason they had been very mild in their criticisms and, at times, had defended the government even though they were expelled from the president's political circles.

The middle class that backs these movements, especially in Quito, has shown itself to be progressive in diverse political scenarios, such as in backing the indigenous movement in its various mobilizations, including those that brought down Presidents Abdala Bucaram (1996-1997) and Jamil Mahuad (1998-2000) and that later led the protests that toppled President Lucio Gutierrez (2003-2005).

In the May referendum, the difference between the Yes and No positions in Quito was just 6%, and, in the questions involving judicial reforms and media regulation, the difference was between one and three percentage points. Quito had backed the government by more than 80% in earlier consultations; now support for the president reached just 47% on average.

While the urban leftist movements were strengthened in this electoral process, it was the indigenous movement, led by the Confederacion de Nacionalidades Indigenas del Ecuador (CONAIE), that achieved the greatest gains. Despite legal harassment and the division that Correa has fomented among its bases, the movement was able to unite its diverse affiliates behind the No campaign in the referendum. The result was a No victory in 11 provinces with a majority indigenous population, implying victory in half of Ecuador's provinces.

The indigenous victory has led various leaders to speak out against the government's intention to apply judicial reforms and control the media, as was called for in six of the 10 questions presented to Ecuadoran voters.

Cesar Umajinga, prefect of the provincial government of Cotopaxi, where the No position won by a 17-point margin, called on the government to respect the province's decision and refrain from implementing the changes there. …

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Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa Wins Another Referendum, but by Smaller Margin
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