On Friday, 8 March, the Ecuadorian National Electoral Council (Consejo Nacional Electoral, CNE) released the final voting results for the legislative and presidential elections held on 17 February. These results verify the dominance of the government party, Alianza Patria Altiva I Soberana (Alianza PAIS), and hint at a realignment of the party system. Riding the coattails of the popular incumbent president Rafael Correa, Alianza PAIS has transcended the historical tendency towards regionalization of the country’s parties through a strong performance across the country’s 34 electoral districts. This election marks an important milestone for democracy in Ecuador. President Correa is completing the first full term for an Ecuadorian president since Sixto Durán Ballén (1992-1996), and his time in office surpasses that of Isidro Ayora (1926-1931), making him the longest-serving president in the country’s history. His current mandate terminates on 10 August 2013. As expected, Correa easily won re-election in the first-round with 57% of the valid vote, and Alianza PAIS won a 92-seat majority in the 137-member unicameral legislative assembly (seat distribution is still being decided by the National Electoral Council, pending a ruling on potential voter fraud in the province of Guayas).
This is Correa’s third presidential election, winning in both 2006 and 2009. His first term was cut short in 2009 for early elections after the adoption of the 2008 Constitution. The 2008 Constitution, drafted by members of Alianza PAIS, allows for immediate one-time re-election. Correa’s 2009 election was the first since the return to democracy in 1979 that a candidate won the presidency without competing in a second-round, exceeding the 50 per cent threshold in the first-round.
The president’s overwhelming support in the election can be credited to a number of factors, including: increased government reserves due to strong oil prices and increased tax revenues; increased social spending and subsequent reduction of poverty and unemployment; increased access to healthcare; and improved infrastructure. However, this should not suggest that the administration has proceeded without conflict. A violent confrontation between Correa and the national police erupted on 30 September 2010 in response to expected benefit cuts. Correa has also faced significant criticism for undercutting democratic institutions (including an unconstitutional reform of the judiciary) and directly challenging freedom of press.
The president is elected using a majority-runoff system. A candidate can by-pass the second round if she wins the first-round with more than 50 per cent of the vote, or between 40 and 50 per cent of the vote with a 10 percentage point margin of victory. The second-round is between the top two candidates, which would have been held on 7 April 2013.