Politics, Business & Culture in the Americas

REACTION: Daniel Noboa Wins Presidency in Ecuador

Noboa will lead the country through May 2025 amid rising violence and economic uncertainty.
Daniel Noboa speaks next to his wife Lavinia Valbonesi in Santa Elena, Ecuador, after winning the October 15 runoff.Franklin Jacome/Getty Images
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Daniel Noboa of Acción Democrática Nacional defeated correísta candidate Luisa González in Ecuador’s presidential runoff on Sunday, becoming the youngest president in the country’s history. He will serve through May 2025, the remainder of the current term, and will be eligible for reelection. A former lawmaker, Noboa, 35, is the son of the former legislator Anabella Azín and the banana tycoon Álvaro Noboa, who unsuccessfully ran for president five times.

The elections took place amid an unprecedented level of political violence—presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio was assassinated on August 9—and a surge in violent crime that was top of mind for voters. The elections were triggered following President Guillermo Lasso’s May 17 decision to invoke the muerte cruzada, a constitutional mechanism to dissolve the legislature.

AQ asked analysts to share their reaction.

Sebastián Hurtado, president of Prófitas, a Quito-based political risk consultancy

Noboa’s victory was not a surprise after he positioned himself as a new, young face and an outsider. He benefited from significant dissatisfaction with the status quo and a strong demand for change. But crucially, what led to his win was his ability to transcend the entrenched correísta vs. anti-correísta political dynamic that has polarized Ecuadorian politics for years. In contrast, Luisa González represented a continuation of that polarizing framework. However, a narrower-than-expected margin between the two candidates, on top of major gains in recent local and legislative elections, show that, after almost two decades since its first political victories, correísmo remains the strongest political organization in the country.

The new president will inherit many challenges, but two will require immediate attention. The first is rampant violence, which has spiraled out of control in recent years. The homicide rate doubled from 2021-22 and is on track to reach a record 40 per 100,000 individuals this year, making Ecuador one of the deadliest countries in the region. This violence is by far the top issue for the public, and it significantly impacted election dynamics, especially after the killing of presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio just before the first-round vote. The second key challenge is to revive a sluggish economy; Ecuador is the only Andean nation to experience negative GDP-per-capita growth for the last five years. If Noboa cannot at least marginally improve the situation and deliver a few quick wins—especially on the security front—he will see his political support quickly evaporate, making a reelection bid in 2025, which he said he would pursue, increasingly unattainable.

A fragmented National Assembly represents a challenge, as Noboa’s Acción Democrática Nacional (ADN) party will only hold 13 seats of 137. The party Revolución Ciudadana, led by former President Rafael Correa, will boast the largest minority bloc with at least 50 seats and is likely to avoid direct collaboration with the new government to present itself as the anti-incumbent alternative in the 2025 elections. At the same time, left-wing parties Pachakutik and Izquierda Democrática lost significant ground, obtaining only five and zero seats, respectively, and were replaced by centrist and right-leaning political forces, with Fernando Villavicencio’s Construye and the Partido Social Cristiano becoming the second- and third-largest blocs with 28 and 14 seats, respectively. A more centrist National Assembly may be a unique opportunity for Noboa’s economic reforms and policies.

Saudia Levoyer, professor at Universidad Andina Simón Bolívar in Quito

Noboa will assume office with a modest political alliance, raising pivotal questions about the composition of his government team and the formation of a legislative bloc. Notably, Noboa’s Acción Democrática Nacional (ADN) party secured a mere 13 seats, a far cry from the requisite 70 for a simple majority. Luisa González extended an olive branch during her concession speech, advocating for unity and the mitigation of political confrontation and polarization. Yet, González’s Revolución Ciudadana (RC) has garnered a reputation for undermining political initiatives since Rafael Correa’s exit from office in 2017. Their primary interest has consistently been to have their leader’s prison sentence revised, and it’s hard to believe this agenda has been set aside.

In addition to RC, another influential legislative group in recent years—known for its expertise and numerical representation—is the Partido Social Cristiano (PSC), which has at least 14 seats, making it a probable contender for constructive dialogue.

However, this could bring problems for Noboa with Construye, which has around 31 seats. This party endorsed the candidacy of Villavicencio, assassinated shortly before the first round. For weeks, this group has rejected any alliance involving RC, which may lead Noboa to carefully consider his working options: flexible or fixed majorities. What is clear is that he will need a very skillful Minister of Government to deal with political negotiations and policy implementation.

From an economic perspective, the familiar challenges persist: fiscal deficit, elevated country risk, and insufficient resources to fund pensions for retirees, all compounded by the expenses associated with addressing the security crisis. The rising violence is what worries people the most, as they feel trapped in their own neighborhoods. Noboa will have little room to maneuver, underscoring the need for not just a law enforcement strategy but also the implementation of comprehensive, long-term development programs. Undoubtedly, these the months ahead will be filled with uncertainty and risky gambles.

Alejandro Arreaza, Andean economist at Barclays

Although Noboa’s background suggests the possibility of a more centrist approach than correísmo, expectations about the next administration remain low. This is a transitional government that will be in office for only 18 months. Therefore, the country seems likely to remain in campaign mode until 2025, meaning there is little incentive for adjustment measures that could be politically costly and result in fiscal deterioration. A fragmented legislature makes it challenging to pass reforms, so the political backdrop warrants some caution amid an increasingly challenging macroeconomic outlook.

Noboa could at least have an opportunity to contain the damage to economic fundamentals and reset the political dynamics. Economically, there is the possibility of looking for multilateral support, which could reinforce the capacity to muddle through with debt payments in the near future, as well as contain some of the medium-terms risks. Although formal IMF programs, such as Stand-By Agreement (SBA) or Extended Fund Facility (EFF) mechanisms, seem unlikely under the incoming administration given the limited scope for reforms, the government could still have the opportunity to access a Rapid Financing Instrument (RFI) or Resilience and Sustainability Trust (RST) using the impact of El Niño and/or sustainability projects as justification. By accessing those resources, the risk of resorting to less orthodox measures, such as the use the international reserves to finance the treasury, could decline.

Given Noboa’s sudden rise and the absence of a well-structured team, there is still uncertainty about the direction of policies. The designation of his Cabinet, in particular the finance minister and the coalition he forms in the National Assembly, will be critical. While passing reforms through a fragmented legislature could be challenging, the Ecuadorian constitution gives the president strong institutional powers that provide some room to pass certain measures. The reduction of fuel subsidies, for example, depends mainly on actions by the executive. The new administration will also have to decide on the implementation of the result of the referendum to close the oil production in the Yasuní-ITT field. While avoiding a closure does not seem easy, a delay in implementation seems likely considering the logistical and financial challenges involved.

Grace Jaramillo, instructor of Public Policy and Global Affairs, University of British Columbia

As the new president-elect, Noboa faces a unique set of challenges. For one thing, he needs to act quickly to assert his authority over the state’s security apparatus and especially the prison system where major crimes and uprisings have taken place, lowering the morale of the security forces (military and police) as a whole. His next task will be to nominate a Cabinet with proven experience and professional authority that provides trust in his administration domestically and internationally. This will not be an easy task, considering that his movement is new and does not have well-known political operatives or proven public administrators who can immediately assume responsibilities in around 400 key state agencies.

Probably most importantly, Noboa needs to build a broad national coalition to have a bloc in the National Assembly that can help him pass required reforms. With only 13 Assembly members elected under his banner, Noboa needs to negotiate a minimum set of priorities for reform with the organizations that won more seats, including Revolución Ciudadana, González’s party.

If this happens, it will demonstrate that organizations across the political spectrum have understood that the status quo is a crisis, and the risks of not addressing violence and insecurity head-on. However, this isn’t certain to happen. Noboa’s most likely partner may be Construye, which will be the second-biggest political force in the upcoming National Assembly, with 28 elected representatives. They were elected on a platform of solving Villavicencio’s murder and halting the infiltration of the state by mafias, criminal and otherwise.

The challenges for Noboa are huge and will be insurmountable without a broad call to prioritize the country over politics. He will have to form a coalition government capable of overcoming polarization to deliver meaningful results in the short run. 

Tags: Democracy in Latin America, Ecuador, Rafael Correa
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Any opinions expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect those of Americas Quarterly or its publishers.
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