Ecuador Internacional

Opinion: Ecuador’s Dubious Election

The government raids a polling firm whose findings belie the official results.

The Wall Street Journal - Mary Anastasia O’Grady 11/04/2017

The special-operations unit of the Ecuadorean national police raided the Quito office of polling firm Cedatos on Friday, hauling away computers and documents and arresting two employees.

The company is one of the country’s oldest and most reputable independent pollsters. But it’s in trouble with President Rafael Correa, because in the April 2 runoff presidential election its exit poll gave opposition-party candidate Guillermo Lasso 53% of the vote and Mr. Correa’s handpicked candidate Lenín Moreno only 47%.

The Cedatos result differed from than that of the Correa-controlled national electoral council (CNE), which pronounced Mr. Moreno the winner. It would be easy to resolve this dispute if the CNE would make its records public. Instead Mr. Correa has unleashed a crackdown on those whose findings do not conform to his will.

On Friday special-ops police also raided an advertising company in Guayaquil that worked for the Lasso campaign. In a further act of intimidation, a group of some 40 police also went looking for Mr. Lasso on Friday.

These developments have fueled Ecuadorean suspicions that Mr. Moreno’s triumph was achieved through vote tampering. Thousands in cities around the country went to the streets last week protesting the lack of transparency in the ballot count. They want a full recount, and without it Mr. Moreno’s presidential legitimacy will remain in doubt.

Mr. Lasso has refused to concede. Yet his options for recourse are almost nonexistent. Inside the country, every institution charged with ensuring a fair vote is controlled by Mr. Correa. Most of the rest of the world doesn’t care. Those who do, back the strongman.

The Monday after election day, the observer mission of the Organization of American States—headed by Leonel Fernández, a leftist former president of the Dominican Republic—endorsed the Correa narrative that Mr. Moreno had won. The OAS told Mr. Lasso to take his complaints to the Correa-controlled electoral appeals tribunal. The U.S. State Department said something similar.

That advice is a bad joke. Mr. Correa has been president since 2007. He runs the country’s largest media empire and controls the legislature, the judiciary, the top command of the army, and the national police. All members of the CNE have links to his government or his party, the PAIS Alliance. The head of the electoral appeals tribunal is the brother of Mr. Correa’s attorney general.

Mr. Moreno freely used government resources to campaign and played dirty. Fake Lasso ads in which he promised to privatize health care popped up on city buses, though Mr. Lasso had made no such proposal. With government control of more than 20 mass-media organizations, including television and radio stations, newspapers and magazines, Mr. Moreno blanketed the nation with his message. The government often interrupted programming on channels not owned by the state to run campaign spots.

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