Ecuador: Voters Back President Correa in 10-Question Referendum

President Rafael Correa, the 48-year-old leader who has ruled Ecuador since 2007, may have received more power on Saturday May 7 after Ecuadorians voted on the referendum he called back in January 2011.

The referendum includes a major judiciary reform that will grant the president more control over the system, and the creation of a monitoring body for the press which will allow the government to limit freedom of speech.

Although most voters do not fully understand the complex referendum, in which each of the 10 questions were being voted on separately, exit polls have already predicted a victory for Presidet Correa's ‘yes’.

On Monday, May 9, BBC News reported that “with final results not expected for a few days, the margin of the Yes victory appears to be much slimmer than expected.”

A referendum ballot in the province of Morona Santiago. Photo used under CC license by Presidencia Republica Ecuador

In Shyris Avenue, the Quito headquarters of Correa's movement, supporters were ready to celebrate as soon as polls closed at 5 pm (Ecuador time). Preliminary results show that between 61 to 64 percent of Ecuadorians approved the amendments to their Constitution [es] on a national level.

Ecuadorians didn’t report major incidents during the voting process at home and abroad. Maybe the most anecdotal is the security feature in the new document voters received as proof they concurred to the polls. Blogger and journalist Nini (@nini022) noticed something was missing on her certificate:

Lo comparo con el anterior (jun/09) y este no tiene sello se seguridad. Ni siquiera tiene el escudo bien impreso. #consultaEC

I liken it to the previous one (Jun/09), and this has no security seal. Not even a well-printed shield. #consultaEC

Young Twitter user Luis Gabriel from Guayaquil (@luchogabucho) believes in the social and political changes taking place in Ecuador. He, at least, has verified one thing:

Otra de las cosas por las que sé que este país ha cambiado es que ahora mi recinto electoral está a menos de 1 km de mi casa #consultaec

Another way I know that this country has changed is that now my polling place is less than 1 km away from my house #consultaec

Manuel Ignacio Gomez (@manueligomez), tweeting from Guayaquil, thinks Correa’s celebration is due to the differences between the opposition and the government at the moment of promoting or opposing the referendum:

“Democracia” plebiscitaria como excusa para comprar popularidad, eternizar al candidato, y evitar la responsabilidad de gobernar…

A plebiscite “Democracy” as an excuse to buy popularity, perpetuate the candidate, and avoid the responsibility to govern …

The exit poll, which has a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percent, was based on the national electorate equivalent to 23,880 voters out of the 11.1 million who voted on Saturday, May 7. Before the election, polls showed that Correa's “citizen revolution” would get most of the votes in the referendum. Ángel Polibio Córdoba, head of Cedatos, the main pollster in Ecuador, said that only two provinces rejected the referendum: Tungurahua and Sucumbíos vetoed Correa’s initiative.

Paola Pullas (@paolapullas), a founder of the Ecuador Oracle Users Group, explains why people were misinformed and the possible reason why the opposition didn't succeed.

@tonnets lastimosamente en Ecuador los periodistas o son correistas o son contrarios a él so la gente no puede informarse

@tonnets unfortunately in Ecuador, journalists are either pro-Correa or in the opposition, so people can not get informed

But even when the exit polls give favorable results to the ‘yes’ on the referendum, the opposition is divided. Among them, the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE) and the leftists political party MPD (Democratic People's Movement) campaigned for the ‘no’. “This time the answer is no Mr. President”, was the slogan they used in their campaign.

The presidential project was not well received by some of the old ideologues of the “citizen's revolution” either.  Alberto Acosta, former energy minister and former president of the national assembly, and Gustavo Larrea, also a former prime minister, campaigned against the referendum with other former allies.

Furthermore, some Ecuadorians think the 30 million dollars spent on this electoral event could have been invested on something else. Twitter user Ariana Rivadeneira (@aricris), went to the polls on May 7 and argues that if the government spent that money wisely people would understand the referendum questions better:

VOTANDO POR OBLIGACIÓN ! Y si mejor el dinero gastado en la #consultaec 2011 la invertirán en educación? Así la gente entiende las preguntas

VOTING BECAUSE IT'S MANDATORY! And if the money spent on the #consultaec2011, was instead invested in education? ^People would understand the questions.

This view is corroborated by another Twitter user and journalist, Kristel Freire (@kriele):

Yo creo que la consulta es una gastadera de dinero por simples caprichos presidenciales #consultaec

I think the referendum is a lot of money that was spent for simple presidential whims #consultaec

The day after voting on the referendum, on Sunday night, reports of the ‘no’ gaining more votes than the exit poll first reported started circulating online.  Yadira Ribas (@yadira_ribas) reacted with this tweet:

RT @susana_marcillo: @FAlvaradoE Total apoyo y ahora en vigilia porque no nos van a Venir con cuentos chinos el SI gano #consultaec

RT @susana_marcillo: @FAlvaradoE I fully support [the ‘yes’] and I'm expectant because they are not going to fool us, the YES won #consultaec

Another Referendum supporter, David Villavicencio (@widaviye), keeps his hopes up:

Con #obtaculos y #trabas y uno que otro #chanchullo gana el #SI y con este gana la #patria VIVA #ECUADOR ! #consultaec

With #obstacles and #barriers and the occasional #scam the #YES wins and with it this great #land LONG LIVE #ECUADOR ! #consultaec


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