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Ecuador: Citizen Reflections on Referendum Results

Ecuador's National Electoral Council [es] (or CNE by its Spanish acronym) concluded counting the votes of the May 7, 2011, referendum. However, Omar Simon [es], president of the CNE, said they will begin [es] public hearings next Monday and that official results will be announced on Friday of next week.

As Global Voices has previously reported, preliminary results gave President Rafael Correa his sixth electoral victory since he became president in 2007. The referendum gives the PAIS Alliance Movement, Correa's coalition of governing parties, more control over the judiciary and more power to impose restrictions on media content and ownership.

Pro-Government supporters from Guayaquil. Photo by Flickr user "Presidencia de la República de Ecuador," used under a CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license.

Pro-Government supporters from Guayaquil. Photo by Flickr user "Presidencia de la República de Ecuador," used under a CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license.

The Wall Street Journal comments on the results in the South American country:

With 100% of ballots from the May 7 balloting counted, the “yes” vote gathered between 44.96% and 50.46%, while the “no” vote accounted for 39.25% to 42.56% for nine questions with national jurisdiction.

The decisions of this referendum are compulsory for the entire country. The exception was a question that referred to bullfighting prohibitions and mandate to keep bulls alive. Its application is jurisdictional. On this question, the “Yes” won in 127 of 221 cantons countrywide, included Quito.

Columnist Pablo Lucio Paredes, who writes for El Universo [es], explains why people chose the “Yes” and why the “No”. He says people voted “yes” because Correa has:

made an effort to pay and draw attention to marginalized groups. [He] has invested significant resources in education, health and roads [… In Ecuador,] a slogan such as “… it’s already for everyone” has a true symbolism which helps create social cohesion and a sense of belonging.

Because of the slimmer margin of support to president Correa in this referendum, results could still be contested by political adversaries and may not be put into law for several months. Likewise, results prompted bloggers and people in Ecuador to discuss who really won this referendum.

For instance, Dimitri Cevallos at LibreRed.net suggests that the government should tone down its triumphalism, pointing to government estimates that it would win in a 5 to 1 proportion.  A reader called “Juanita” commented this article supporting Correa:

Sr. Cevallos, me parece que su análisis es llevado por su odio al Presidente Rafael Correa. A todos los ecuatorianos nos consta que nuestro Presidente tuvo que luchar sólo contra la derecha: Lucio Gutierrez, Nebot, Carlos Vera, Montufar, Ruptura de los 25 (son financiados por la USAID)Hurtado, Noboa, la Iglesia Cátolica, los medios de comunicación y su campaña millonaria, los toreros, los dueños de casinos […] además de los Pachacutik (oportunistas que ayer estuvieron con Lucio, luego con Correa, ahora ya no están, pero lo que es peor se han aliado a lo más recalcitrante de la oligarquía guayaquileña como lo es la Junta Civica de Guayaquil, y ni que decir de Alberto Acosta…contra todo esto lucho Correa, y hoy el Sí es un claro triunfador. El cambio va por que va, duelale a quien le duela.

Mr. Cevallos, I think your analysis is driven by your hatred of President Rafael Correa. All Ecuadorians know that our President had to fight alone against the right wing: Lucio Gutierrez, Nebot, Carlos Vera, Montufar, Rupture of the 25 (who are funded by USAID) Hurtado, Noboa, the Catholic Church, the media and its expensive campaign, bullfighters, casino owners […] in addition to the Pachacutik (opportunists who yesterday were with Lucio, then with Correa, now they are not), but to make things worse, they're allied to the most recalcitrant part of Guayaquil oligarchy, as is the Civic Board of Guayaquil, and not to mention Alberto Acosta … Correa fought against all this, and today the Yes is a clear winner. The change is ongoing, not matter whom it hurts.

But not all Ecuadorians share Juanita’s excitement. Omar Vargas from the blog Cambiemos Ecuador [es] writes that it is necessary to go beyond numbers [es]. He explains why both Correa and the leader of the opposition in Guayaquil, mayor Jaime Nebot, have lost the referendum:

Los grandes perdedores de la campaña fueron Correa y Nebot, cuyos cálculos políticos se basaron en encuestas poco confiables y los llevaron por sendas distintas. Por un lado el presidente de la republica, que basó sus acciones en la legitimidad avalada por las encuestas, más que en la legalidad o la ética política. Esto lo llevo a celebrar anticipadamente y a hacer planes de acción a corto plazo sobre la implementación de los resultados de la consulta,… Y por otro lado Nebot, timorato líder de la oposición que también basó sus acciones políticas en encuestas y cálculos a favor de sus intereses mas que en los de los ciudadanos, cuyo camino en esta consulta fue marcado por la torpeza y mediocridad, dado que inicialmente proclamo un tibio no y luego […] apareció con un menos timorato pronunciamiento.

The big campaign losers were Correa and Nebot, whose political calculations were based on unreliable polls that led them to different paths. On the one hand, the President of the Republic, based his actions on legitimacy backed by polls, rather than by legality or political ethics. This led him to celebrate in advance and make short-term action plans to implement the referendum results,… On the other hand, Nebot [was a] gutless opposition leader who also based his political actions in polls and calculations that were more in favor of his own interest and not those of the citizens. [His journey] in this referendum was marked by clumsiness and mediocrity, given that he initially proclaimed a shy No […] he merely pronounced a less fearful speech.

Some of the criticism raised by Vargas is shared also by Luis Hidaldo of Desde mi Trinchera [es]. He thinks the big loser is not only the government that hoped to win by a landslide, but the Ecuadorian people [es]:

El electorado esta dividido y el efecto de esto es que el Ecuador no lograra superar la gran cantidad de obstáculos que están impidiendo su desarrollo, mientras nuestros vecinos disfrutan de una prosperidad envidiable.

The electorate is divided and the effect of this is that Ecuador is unable to overcome the many obstacles that impede its development, while its neighbors enjoy enviable prosperity.

According to the CNE, reports El Comercio [es], “12 provinces voted against the government overhaul in 9 of the 10 questions. The same tendency was observed with Ecuadorians in the North America, who vetoed 6 out the 9 questions they were to answer.”

But the other 12 provinces, included Ecuadorians in Europe and Latin America gave the “vote of confidence” Correa has been calling for. The absenteeism, however, was of 22.6 per cent.

Official results are not yet announced, but some assemblyman like Andres Paez, representing the Democratic Left Party, are preparing to demand answers [es] from the president of the CNE for the alleged impartiality during the referendum campaign and disruptions in the electoral process.

Some others, like Rafael Mendez, say something that should be eliminated is what he calls “plebiscite democracy” without a prior process of debate. Some leaders in the Cotopaxi and Zamora Chinchipe provinces, where the “No” won, made calls to resist against the national will expressed at the polls in these provinces.

Finally, a reflection by a blogger who writes under the pseudonym Endivio Roquefort I, in his blog Balcon del Peregrino [es], explains why he supports exluding null and blank votes [es] from official counts and reflects on the election:

Discutir sobre “quién realmente ganó” es perder el tiempo. Ganaron los de siempre. Ganaron el populismo, la propaganda, la manipulación, la demagogia, el chantaje, el soborno. Ganó, limpia e indiscutiblemente, una propuesta que se resume en la anulación de una serie de supuestos “derechos” constitucionales, y en la creación de una serie de nuevos crímenes sin víctima, que servirán de pretexto para más encarcelamientos de opositores y mayor represión policial. Ganó, en suma, la violencia estatal, la intolerancia, la polarización y el odio, como ya nos venimos acostumbrando desde hace cinco años.

To discuss about “who really won” is a waste of time. Winners are same as always. Populism, propaganda, manipulation, demagoguery, blackmail and bribery won. Fairly and undeniably, a proposal summed up as the scrapping of a number of supposed constitutional “rights”, and the creation of a new series of victimless crimes that will serve as a pretext for further incarceration of opposition figures and more police repression, won.  In sum: as we have been accustomed over the past five years, state violence, intolerance, polarization and hatred won.

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