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  April 6, 2017

Defeated Ecuadorian Presidential Candidate Refuses to Concede

Guillermo Lasso, the conservative who lost Ecuador's presidential vote, is aiming to delegitimize the leftist winner, Lenin Moreno, before he takes office says TRNN's Greg Wilpert
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SHARMINI PERIES: It's The Real News Network. I'm Sharmini Peries, coming to you from Baltimore.

Guillermo Lasso, Ecuador's losing presidential candidate from last Sunday's presidential election, has not conceded the election to its declared victor, Lenin Moreno. Lasso is vowing that he will not accept the official results, and is urging his supporters to resist the election results as fraudulent.

As a result, some of his supporters have taken to the streets in protest. According to the National Electoral Council, Lenin Moreno, who was the left-centre candidate and successor to President Rafael Correa, won the run-off vote with 51.2%. However, Lasso argues that there was fraud.

Let's have a look at what he said during his press conference, held on Tuesday.


TRANSLATION: We do not accept, and do not recognize, the electoral results issued by the National Electoral Council, and which has attempted to install an illegitimate government for May 24th.


TRANSLATION: The first time I participated in the electoral process in 2013, I immediately recognized the results when they were known. I accepted those results with democratic chivalry.


TRANSLATION: On this occasion, participating for the second time, I cannot accept those results, because they do not correspond with the popular vote.


SHARMINI PERIES: In spite of Lasso's objections, the election observers from the Organization of American States, and from the Union of South American Nations, say that the vote was clean and fair, and that no evidence of fraud has been presented.

Joining us now from Quito, Ecuador, to take a closer look at the election results, is Greg Wilpert. Greg is a journalist and producer for The Real News in Quito, Ecuador. Thanks so much for joining us here, Greg.

GREG WILPERT: My pleasure.

SHARMINI PERIES: Greg, is there any reason to believe that Lasso's challenge is a legitimate one?

GREG WILPERT: No. I don't think so. I mean, he sent out a tweet with some pictures of something that was supposedly changed, but so far he's really failed to present much of any evidence at all. He said he will present more, but this is a very common tactic to kind of delay things. And, as you mentioned, the OAS and the UNASUR delegations have already said that they don't have any evidence, and they've had enormous numbers of people here on the ground, so it seems relatively unlikely.

Of course, one should keep in mind that, since it was only a 2% difference, which comes to about 200,000 votes, that makes it easier for Lasso to make this claim, than if it had been a much broader margin by which he had lost.

SHARMINI PERIES: And why is Lasso then doing this? What is the significance, and what kind of political situation is he projecting this questionable results in?

GREG WILPERT: Well, I think there are two possibilities. I think either he's genuinely concerned and distrusts the National Electoral Council, because it's considered to be somehow sympathetic, or somewhat sympathetic to the current government of Correa. But I think it's more likely that he wants to create a situation in which the new incoming government is perceived as being less legitimate than it would otherwise be.

As a matter of fact, President Correa, just a couple of hours ago, tweeted an article that presented some papers from the exit poll that Lasso's company had commissioned, and it indicates or suggests that the exit poll results were falsified.

In other words, his main claim for fraud has been this exit poll, which showed him winning the election, and it seems like it's a very questionable exit poll. So, it seems that the evidence is mounting that he is really trying to delegitimise the incoming government, more than actually having real fraud evidence.

SHARMINI PERIES: And, Greg, Lasso's challenge is partly based on the fact that he believes that the National Electoral Council is actually leaning towards the governing body, or governing government of Correa, and of course, as we know, Moreno is a part of it. Is there any reason to believe that there's any legitimacy to those concerns?

GREG WILPERT: Well, I mean, of course, the Electoral Council tries to present itself as being as objective as possible, but it was instituted in the aftermath of the new Constitution of Ecuador. Which came about through Rafael Correa in 2009. And so, certainly... and the National Assembly was dominated by his party, and therefore it's not too farfetched to think that they're sympathetic to the government, but so far, I think they've been acting in a very –- how should I say? -– A very professional manner, and have tried to take into account all of the sides in these kinds of disputes.

SHARMINI PERIES: And yet the results are so close, Greg, two percentage points, and, as you said, about a 200,000 vote difference. Why was the result so close?

GREG WILPERT: Well, originally it seemed like Correa had enormous popularity, and that Moreno, his successor, would win easily in this presidential election. But then as the time for the votes, that is the first round, and then the second round came closer, the private mass media really laid into Correa and Moreno, and created an atmosphere that -– especially around the issue of corruption –- that made it look like the Correa government had become very, very corrupt. I think the evidence for that was kind of lacking.

There are certain questions about one of the people who had escaped... I mean, who had been accused of corruption -- was actually being wanted by the government -- and he escaped to the United States, so the government was trying to crack down on corruption. So, anyway, they created an atmosphere, I think, through the media that called the government into question, and also Moreno, as a result.

But, of course, there were also many things in favor of Moreno, which is particularly his association with Correa. And it had been a successful government with new political economic stability for the past ten years that Ecuador hadn't achieved in a long time. Also, tremendous poverty reduction, increasing of spending on education, and social spending in general had increased –- doubled, actually –- and also investment spending had doubled as a percentage of GDP. So, there was a lot going for him.

But the government hadn't been communicating well, and it didn't do much about the private media. I mean, particularly in terms of diversifying the media landscape, as has happened in other countries in Latin America. And so, that left the field quite wide open for the opposition.

SHARMINI PERIES: Greg, the Organization of American States, that sent 400 observers to Ecuador for the election, as well as UNASUR, who also sent a delegation, they have both come out and declared that there was no fraudulent activity, as far as they are concerned, no irregularities as they said.

Yet, Lasso is questioning their observers' declaration. What does this do, in terms of Lasso, and what his relationship is in the country?

GREG WILPERT: Well, it seems really unlikely that he is going to be able to present any evidence that would change the minds of these delegations, or of the National Electoral Council. I mean, he said he's still going to present some evidence, but they had so many people on the ground here, that anything that he's going to have, they would have seen already.

And it's also, like I mentioned, a very transparent process, where you have obviously observers of all parties in all of the electoral centers, and you can see the results. It's, like I said, it's a very, very transparent process. So, it's very unlikely that he's going to be able to present anything.

And, so, if anything, I think this claim of fraud is going to fizzle out in a couple of weeks, and it's going to leave him, actually, quite weakened. Even though, like I said before, he is trying to delegitimise the government from the start, but it's going to have only an effect with his supporters.

SHARMINI PERIES: Greg, before we go, I should ask you about Lenin Moreno, and as we know, he was Correa's vice president and now will be taking office. What do we know about him, and when will he be taking office, if this cloud around the results is sorted out?

GREG WILPERT: Well, he'll be taking office on May 24th. And what we can expect from him basically is a continuation of Rafael Correa's policies, but with a much softer, milder tone. That is, Correa had a tendency to be very outspoken and bombastic, and he actually oftentimes alienated people. Particularly from the middle class, because of the way he would belittle his opponents, and things like that.

But Moreno is much more soft-spoken. He is actually also the author of books on the healing power of laughter. He's also the first wheelchair-bound president since Franklin Roosevelt. So, he's almost the opposite, in terms of personality, from Rafael Correa. But, he's going to continue the policies, which are basically, a social democratic orientation of increasing, continuing the social spending -- and one of the areas that he's probably going to be different is to work more with the social movements.

That's one of the things, one of the problems, that Correa had, is that, he antagonized a lot of the, particularly the indigenous, and the environmental movements, here in Ecuador. And Moreno seems like he will be much more -– at least, that's what he said -– is that he's much more open to working with them, and so then, in other words, he's going to be much less confrontational than Correa.

SHARMINI PERIES: Greg, then what does this result mean for the rest of Latin America?

GREG WILPERT: Well, I think it means several things. But first of all, it means that the rightward drift that has been going on in Latin America over the past two or three years has at least been slowed down. That it's not as definite as it once seemed.

Because, in Brazil, Argentina, Peru, there've been conservative governments, and there was definite concern among progressives. Both here in Ecuador, and throughout Latin America, that another neo-liberal government would take hold in Ecuador. And that certainly didn't happen.

And what it also means is, that it gives breathing room to the remaining leftist governments, that is, especially Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua, and Cuba. And especially in the case of Venezuela, it's receiving a lot of pressure from the U.S., and from the organization, and from the other right wing governments in Latin America to be isolated. And so, Ecuador will certainly be, kind of an outpost that will help stop that isolation.

And also, finally, I think it will also open up hope, and possibilities for other progressive movements in other countries. Particularly, we're looking at elections coming up in Mexico, and Brazil, and in Chile, and Paraguay, in the next one to two years. And all of those four countries have a chance of a leftist government coming to office. And given the example that has happened here in Ecuador, I think they will see their positions strengthened as a result of this result.

SHARMINI PERIES: All right, Greg, I thank you so much for joining us, and am looking forward to further analysis as the situation unfolds.

GREG WILPERT: My pleasure.

SHARMINI PERIES: And thank you for joining us here on The Real News Network.




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