How young people, women could decide the next president of Ecuador | Election News

Quito, Ecuador – The last two Ecuadorian presidential candidates begin the last part of the official electoral campaign on Tuesday, just weeks before voters return to the polls for a second round on April 11.

Economist Andres Arauz and former banker Guillermo Lasso will visit towns and villages across the country to spread their campaign messages.

Arauz got 32.72% support last month fought closely in the first round of the vote, compared to Lasso’s 19.74% – but with the candidates re-launching the campaign trail, experts say two specific groups of voters may hold the key to victory.

“Young people and women are two very important electoral blocks that Arauz and Lasso need to start thinking about,” said Dayana Leon, an independent expert on elections and gender.

Key questions

Ecuadorians between the ages of 18 and 30 make up nearly 30% of the electorate, according to data from the National Electoral Council (CNE). Although not mandatory, 16 and 17 year olds can also vote in Ecuador, which would mean 630,000 more votes are up for grabs.

About 51% of the country’s 13 million eligible voters are women, 30% of whom are between 18 and 30 years old.

Long-standing Ecuador economic woes, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, is a major problem for young people, while worsening inequalities and violence are a priority for women.

Young Ecuadorians are particularly concerned about high unemployment, which was 32.7% in December 2020 among people aged 15 to 34. Students also often took to the streets during Ecuador’s first COVID-19 lockdown in May 2020, after President Lenin Moreno’s government cut $ 98 million. for 32 universities and public schools.

Women also demand more economic support, as they were receiving on average nearly $ 50 less per month than men, who earned an average monthly income of $ 309.90 in December, according to the National Institute of Statistics and Statistics. censuses (INEC).

Election officials count ballots after polling stations closed in first round of presidential election last month [Santiago Arcos/Reuters]

A high number of femicides has also prompted calls from women for greater government action. Feminist groups have said at least 23 femicides have taken place since the start of 2021 in Ecuador, while 118 have occurred last year.

Recently, Lasso announced that he would be opening an ombudsman office specifically for women. He also plans to raise the minimum wage to $ 500 a month and create more jobs, while promising to ease the rigorous process of selecting universities across the country.

For his part, Arauz has promised to return to social policies under his mentor, the former populist left-wing president Rafael Correa. He said he would offer $ 1,000 checks to one million Ecuadorian families, as well as free internet access for students and teachers, and create 400,000 new jobs.

“Lasso and Arauz have to convince a large number of voters who are looking for new options in the country… and a way out of the economic situation,” Leon told Al Jazeera.

Social media

Meanwhile, Lasso and Arauz try to take advantage of the widespread use of social media in Ecuador to spread their campaign messages.

Applicants primarily use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and over the past few months they have each launched respective accounts on TikTok as well.

More than 14 million people in Ecuador have at least one account on Facebook or Instagram, while 2.3 million people use TikTok, about half of whom are between the ages of 18 and 34, according to a study carried out in January by the firm of Mentinno advice.

Lasso also recently hired the former campaign manager of presidential candidate Xavier Hervas, who finished fourth in the first round with nearly 16% of the vote, in his effort to build more social media.

Presidential candidate Guillermo Lasso rides a van during a campaign caravan in Guayaquil, Ecuador, January 19 [Santiago Arcos/Reuters]

Much of the support for Hervas, a Democratic Left Party candidate who used TikTok to share his proposals, came from voters between the ages of 18 and 21, according to Clima Social.

According to Andres Ramon, political researcher in Ecuador, the two candidates will have to focus on politics, instead of reorganizing their campaigns on social networks, integrating various demands that were exposed during the first ballot.

“The February 7 election marked a new political moment,” Ramon told Al Jazeera, explaining that it had been marked by a debate between Arauz and Lasso over Correa’s influence, which did not find a way out. resonance with young and female voters.

“But this election has indicated that there are other demands that must be heeded.”

Frustration with the status quo

While Hervas and the presidential finisher in third place For Perez, an indigenous and environmental activist, both skillfully used social media in the first round, most pundits attribute the support they garnered to general frustration with the status quo.

Ecuador’s political landscape remains deeply fragmented after previous governments pursued neoliberal or leftist populist policies.

As the first round approached, Arauz and Lasso largely focused on pro and anti-Correa talking points – similar to what Ecuadorians heard throughout the 2017 election campaign. turn, it became apparent that there was fatigue about Correa, Ramon said.

Ecuadorian presidential candidate Andres Arauz gestures to supporters during his closing rally in Quito, Ecuador on February 4 [Johanna Alarcon/Reuters]

Arauz, so far, seems to be the most willing to hear alternate voices and focus on other issues. For example, on March 7, on the eve of International Women’s Day, Arauz met with feminist activists to discuss various issues.

But as Correa’s protege, he faced the added challenge of trying to appeal to the left-wing activists the former president frequently clashed with during his 10 years in power. The same activist group has also invited Lasso to meet, but he has yet to accept their invitation.

Samanta Andrade, a 27-year-old feminist activist who participated in the dialogue, said she felt some of Arauz’s responses lacked clarity.

“If Arauz wants to get closer to the feminist movement, he will have to denounce the political violence under Correa,” Andrade told Al Jazeera.

The next clear test will take place on March 21, as Arauz and Lasso are set to face off in a presidential debate, giving Ecuadorian young people and women a chance to see if the two will seek to address the issues that are facing them. matter most.

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