Election season got under way today in Ecuador as eight presidential candidates took to the streets and rallied supporters to campaign for the February 17 presidential and congressional elections.
President Rafael Correa, who has held office since 2007 and is running for a third term next month after being re-elected in 2009, overwhelmingly leads the polls over his rivals, who include businessman Guillermo Lasso, former Ecuadorian president Lucio Gutiérrez, millionaire Alvaro Noboa, and evangelical pastor Néstor Zavala.
A December survey conducted by polling company Perfiles de Opinión found that 60.6 percent of Ecuadorian voters polled signaled an intention to re-elect Correa. A distant 11.2 percent of voters said that they backed Lasso, Correa’s nearest competitor.
The poll by Perfiles de Opinión also found that more Ecuadorian voters signaled an intention to submit blank or nullified ballots than to vote for any presidential candidate other than Correa or Lasso.
Correa launched his presidential campaign early this morning in southern Quito, where he convened a caravan to the coastal city of Portoviejo to hold his first presidential campaign rally today. On January 2, Congress officially granted Correa a month’s leave from January 15 to February 14 in order to focus on his campaign, making Vice President Lenín Moreno Ecuador’s temporary head of state during that period.
When Ecuador’s 11.5 million voters go to the polls on February 17, they will be casting ballots for the president, vice-president, and members of the national assembly, who will all serve until 2017.
Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli signed a pledge on Tuesday stating that he will not seek reelection in the country’s 2014 presidential elections. According to media observers in Panama, Martinelli made the pledge in response to controversial rumors of his desire to run again in a country with strict constitutional prohibitions against consecutive presidential terms. Until recently, President Martinelli's approval ratings hovered around 80 percent, but recent actions to quell protests by the Indigenous Ngabes Buglés people regarding mining and hydroelectric activities has brought his job approval and likability figures to around 33 percent—their lowest levels ever.
Martinelli challenged members of the opposition to sign a similar document and accused opposition parties of spreading false rumors about his seeking reelection. However, opposition party leader Francisco Sanchez of the Partido Revolucionario Democratico says the president’s move “shows that no one believes him,” and only serves to underline the Martinelli administration’s desperation to improve its job approval figures.
The latest poll, released Tuesday by research firm Dichter & Neira, questioned 1,200 people and found that 80.3 percent of respondents disapproved of how Martinelli handled the Indigenous strike. In addition, 71.8 percent believed the administration authorized excessive force against the protesters.