This coming Sunday Ecuadoreans will head to the polls for the first round of presidential elections. As Bloggings by Boz notes, only three presidents have finished their full term in the last 27 years. Given the indecision that has stood out in each of the campaign polls, it seems that anything could happen.
What we do know is that this year's election has marked an important transformation in how Ecuadoreans have covered and discovered information about the campaign, the candidates, and the electoral process. Global Voices contributor Milton Ramirez recently interviewed Gullermo Sornoza [ES], a systems engineer from Guayaquil who is one of the founders of Ecuador Elige [ES] (“Ecuador Chooses”), a citizen's media project to supplement Big Journalism's coverage of the elections. The interview was conducted in Spanish and I have translated it here.
Gullermo Sornoza is a noteworthy blogger in Ecuador. He resides in Ecuador's main port city of Guayaquil and, beyond working as a system's engineer, he also dedicates himself to protecting the interest of the Ecuadorian citizen by means of a project that has taken the name Ecuador Elige. We engaged in a dialog with him via email and here are his reflections:
1. What is Ecuador Elige and how did it come about?
We could define Ecuador Elige as a project of bloggers, carried out with the purpose of helping people be able to choose their candidate. We tried to make use of citizen journalism, official sources, and traditional media, as well as the testimony of each person who collaborates on the project. Beginning in May Ernesto Monserratte and I began talking about the restlessness we felt about wanting to start a blog focused on the elections. We started forming the project and the rest is history.
2. What is the roll of Ecuador Elige within the framework of public information?
That's precisely it: to inform. As it is, we do not have a strict editorial line. Our policy is simply that insults are not used and any accusation made is done with respective evidence. Additionally it is not permitted to post information in any anonymous way. By having several collaborators, and letting everyone have the freedom to publish what want they want, the editorial line becomes very large and unrestrictive. Everyone has their thoughts and points of view which, in the end, enrich the debate and help us choose the best candidate. Regrettably our country does not have good internet penetration, so the information does not arrive to everybody. But this is our way of improving the country on this occasion.
3. What are the perspectives of governability in Ecuador?
I was just about to to write something on the matter. Whoever becomes president has that first challenge: to remain in power. It is very complicated, given that the political parties, or rather, their leaders, do not yield power. For that reason the one who is elected will have to know how to negotiate well. First for the country because there are so many anxieties about political stability and, second, to attract foreign investment and to build a sense of nationality.
4. Have methods of proselytism changed in Ecuador over the last the ten years?
I don't think so. Perhaps with more creativity, but nothing else. In reality, the rhetoric has stayed the same: “I offer, I promise.” T-shirts, soccer balls, etc. They continue buying the vote with a t-shirt or false promises. They say “I am not a polítiquero, I will end the corrupt oligarchy, etc.” But this has its explanation. The people have to vote because your voter's card is used for public proceedings. And each population has a limited degree of knowledge about the national reality. If the candidate promises a voter that his salary will last to the end of the month, he gets his vote.
5. Do you believe in the possibility of a governing woman in the country?
Yes … by my own experience I know that women are better administrators than men.
6. How does Ecuador Elige help voters if the coverage is only for those who have internet access? What about the great majority that aren't connected?
Sometimes I think about that. The idea is that the person who accesses the site can better form her criteria to be able to help the rest. For example, most of my family does not have access to Internet. Obviously I cannot say to them “listen, I made a website to inform people about the elections. You will find opinions and news on the candidates and the elections”. And in the end, they will not be able to access the information. My duty is to try to help them with the information. To say “look, I know that ‘John Doe’ is not good candidate because of this, that, and the other. ‘Jane’ is not a good choice either because of this, that, and beyond. But we compare ‘Little Mike’ with ‘John Doe’, I believe that Maria is better.” My idea is to be able to work a little more in generating more critera and opinion in the people who read the site who will discuss it with their friends, relatives, fellow workers, close friends, etc.
7. Do you think that Ecuadorian bloggers will have real influence in the present elections?
Due to the the same point about internet penetration, I doubt it very much. Perhaps as a reference for foreign bloggers, yes blogs will be influential, but not to take away or deliver votes to such-and-such candidate.
8. With your knowledge and experience, which do you believe is the ideal President for Ecuador.
It is a very complicated question. I believe firmly in the power of the dialogue, so he or she must be a person who likes to listen. And must know how to negotiate for the good of the country, to be a great communicator and expert about the national reality. To love the country, to have demonstrated excellence in previous experiences; and to have much power of decision and conviction towards his circle of advisors. That person could handle to the country well.
9. Ecuador Elige will finish its objective when the elections finish. Any thoughts?
We have still have not thought about it, although already we have received suggestions to conserve the space as a citizen platform. We'll have to wait until November [when the second round elections take place] to know what will happen to the site and, above all, what the participants decide to do with it.
Spanish speakers and non-Spanish speakers alike are both encouraged to check out Ecuador Elige and take note of the broad range of information and media available to this weekend's voters as they form their opinions about who should lead their country.