Photo: Public Domain / Mike Pompeo and Lenin Moreno Photo: Public Domain / Mike Pompeo and Lenin Moreno

Left candidate Arauz is in the lead after the first round of Ecuador’s election in a clear rejection of neoliberalism, reports Jonathan Maunders

Ecuador is set for a presidential election run-off in April as leftist Andrés Arauz claimed a clear lead in Sunday’s first round voting, sparking jubilation from his supporters and opponents of the country’s neoliberal government.

Arauz, part of the socialist Union for Hope (UNES) coalition, took 31.5% of the vote, over 10% more than his next nearest challenger, according to the preliminary results. The result marks a clear rejection of the neoliberal policies of outgoing president Lenín Moreno with his chosen successor, Guillermo Lasso, possibly even finishing third.

Despite Arauz’s lead, he lacked the numbers to claim an outright victory, meaning there will be a head-to-head battle in April. This will pit him against either Lasso or indigenous environmentalist Yaku Pérez, depending on the final results of Sunday’s election.

The election has been dominated by criticism of Moreno’s disastrous free market policies. His premiership saw the collapse of Ecuador’s economy, as well as IMF-backed austerity policies that led to increased privatisation and cuts to wages and pensions.

Those policies triggered widespread protests little over a year ago, forcing Moreno to flee Ecuador’s capital, Quito. While the protests forced him to make some concessions, he refused to resign, sealing his unpopularity. When he recently left office, he did so with a single-digit approval rating.

Indeed, if Pérez, who was part of those protests, were to clinch second place and guarantee his place in the run-off alongside Arauz, it will ensure that the next Ecuadorian president is not from the neoliberal establishment.

It is not yet over but many across Ecuador are increasingly confident that this election will be the culmination of all that was ignited during those protests, finally allowing them to reverse Moreno’s devastating neoliberal agenda.