Cablegate: Preliminary Ecuadorian Election Results,

Published: Mon 18 Oct 2004 07:34 PM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
E.O. 12958: N/A
This cable was cleared by CG Guayaquil.
1. (SBU) Summary: Ecuadorian voters went to the polls to
elect provincial and municipal officials on October 17 in
elections the OAS characterized publicly as "free and
transparent." Some irregularities were reported but in most
polling places voting proceeded relatively smoothly.
Preliminary results confirm that incumbents from the larger
parties consolidated and strengthened their representation,
at the expense of smaller party candidates. Press
immediately christened the re-elected mayors of Quito and
Guayaquil as favorites for the 2006 presidential race. It
also appears that President Gutierrez' Patriotic Society
Party surpassed the 5% hurdle to stave off extinction.
Gutierrez continued to stir controversy on election day by
threatening to overturn through regulation the method
selected by the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) to allocate
council seats to permit some degree of proportional
representation. Post-electoral controversy will now move to
the courts and Congress. End Summary.
Process Smooth Overall, Rough in Places
2. (U) Ecuadorian voters elected 219 mayors, 22 provincial
prefects, 91 provincial councilors, 893 municipal councilors,
and 3,970 rural council representatives. OAS Election
Observation Chief of Mission Edgardo Reis issued a press
statement on October 18 thanking the GoE for its
collaboration with the OAS mission and stating that "the
electoral process proceeded in a generally calm and ordered
manner, with the exception of some incidents reported in the
provinces of Guayas, Bolivar, and Los Rios." Ninety percent
of voters interviewed by OAS observers expressed satisfaction
with the decision of the TSE to separate voting lines by
gender. Eighty-five percent of the sample of voters who used
special electronic voting machines rated their use as easy,
and 82% supported use of the machines more widely. The
results of the OAS quick count in the race for mayor of Quito
coincided with official results. The OAS statement also
praised the work of electoral watchdog NGO Citizen
Participation and the unprecedented indigenous observation
effort mounted by the Q'ellkaj Foundation (both with USAID
support). It also expressed concern about gaps in the
election law about campaign financing and allocation of
council seats.
3. (U) Although actual voting proceeded without incidents of
violence, media reported and police sources have confirmed
the shooting death of Pasquale Bustamante, a PSP candidate
for town councilor in Los Rios province, in the evening after
the polls closed. In addition, the elections were suspended
and will be re-run in two small municipalities (El Empalme in
Guayas province and Pajan in Manabi province), and incidents
were reported in the Tarqui area in Guayaquil municipality,
in the municipality of Simon Bolivar in Guayas, and in
Bolivar province. Citizen Participation reported a variety
of problems noted by its 3,100 young volunteer observers
stationed in 42% of the voting stations nationwide, including
campaign activities within voting areas (28%), and police
impeding access by political party or observers to voting
stations (17%). Citizen Participation director Cesar
Montufar urged Congress to address gaps in the electoral laws
to better regulate campaign spending and the allocation of
council seats.
Embassy Volunteers Support OAS
4. (U) Thirty-eight U.S. mission volunteers participated as
election observers under the OAS Election Observation
Mission. In addition to Quito and Guayaquil, Embassy and CG
Guayaquil volunteers traveled to Babahoyo, Los Rios province;
Manta, Manabi province; Esmeraldas; Cuenca, Azuay province;
Ibarra, Imbabura province; and Tena, Napo province. Embassy
participation contributed to a successful OAS quick count in
Quito, and provided over half of the OAS' qualitative
Large Parties Advance, PSP Fate Uncertain
5. (U) As expected, Paco Moncayo, the incumbent mayor of
Quito (ID), was re-elected, as was Jaime Nebot (PSC) as mayor
of Guayaquil. Both were gracious and conciliatory in their
victory speeches. In Cuenca, the ID defeated the incumbent
Pachakutik-endorsed mayor and won the Azuay prefect race as
well. In Machala, Los Rios, the PSC candidate defeated the
PRE incumbent, although the PRE retained the prefecture. In
Manabi, the PSC mayor of Manta was re-elected and the PSC won
the prefect race, also at the expense of the PRE. The
indigenous party, Pachakutik, appears to have preserved its
strength in its Sierra heartland, but lost the prefecture of
6. (U) Overall, the ID won six prefectures, followed by the
PSC and Pachakutik with five each. The PRE won in three
prefectures, as did the Popular Democracy Party (DP), some in
coalitions. The Coalition of Popular Forces (CFP) and
Popular Democratic Movement (MPD) both won in two. The
National Action Institutional Renewal Party (PRIAN) won just
one prefecture (Imbabura) and the PSP was part of a coalition
which won in the Galapagos. (These numbers total more than
Ecuador's 22 provinces because of alliances made in several
7. (U) It appears that President Gutierrez' PSP cleared the
5% hurdle required to retain its party registry. The PSP won
the mayorships of Tena, in Gutierrez' home province of Napo;
and of Pastaza, Morona Santiago province; in addition to the
Galapagos prefecture. (The 5% rule applies only to
provincial, municipal, and rural council seats, however, and
results in these races is still limited.) Despite these
advances by the PSP, opposition opinion makers are claiming
the PSP's relatively poor showing constitutes popular
rejection of the Gutierrez government's performance and
Gutierrez: Snatching Defeat from Jaws of Victory
--------------------------------------------- ----
8. (U) President Gutierrez marked the opening of polls in a
brief address at the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) in
which he called on winners and losers to come together in
support of unity and national interests. Later, in an
impromptu press conference at his polling station and in
post-election interviews, Gutierrez was less statemanlike
There he continued his criticism of the method adopted by the
TSE to allocate council seats (which likely cost his small
party by reducing proportional representation), and
criticized Congress for abdicating its responsibility to
legislate a better method. Gutierrez said he was holding off
issuing his own regulations replacing the TSE's method until
greater consensus emerged on the subject in Congress.
9. (U) Gutierrez also used the opportunity to take a swipe
at "a certain desperate ex-President" for attacking
Gutierrez' criticism of the judiciary (for supposed
politicization in favor of the PSC) and his meeting with
disgraced ex-president Abdala Bucaram in Panama. PSC leader
and ex-president Leon Febres-Cordero responded in kind,
calling Gutierrez "corrupt, incapable, and an ignoramus."
Guayaquil mayor Nebot, goaded by press to react to Gutierrez'
threat to issue new post-electoral regulations, warned the
President against any such move, saying the PSC and possibly
other parties would "take to the streets" to defend what it
won in the ballot box.
10. (SBU) It appears that President Gutierrez' efforts on
behalf of PSP candidates staved off de-certification of his
party. Regardless, it is clear today that the PSP's gains
were modest, at best. Opposition press are claiming the
election results constituted a referendum on Gutierrez'
performance as President. We find that claim overdrawn, but
will monitor closely the effects of the ensuing spin battle.
11. (SBU) The big ID and PSC wins in their respective
heartlands immediately fueled speculation that Paco Moncayo
and Jaime Nebot will likely be competitors in the 2006
presidential election (in response, both claimed only to be
interested in serving their new four-year terms as mayor).
Pachakutik's political stasis in its indigenous heartland
might make it less anxious to challenge democratic stability
than had it suffered a major reverse. Alvaro Noboa, the
PRIAN presidential runner-up in 2002 and presumptive
presidential candidate in 2006, did his best to paint the
PRIAN's middling results (many second and third places, few
winners) as a victory placing the PRIAN among the four
largest parties after only two years in existence. He
contrasted his party's national results with the strong
regional identification of the PSC and ID.
12. (SBU) We believe the President's election-day threat to
regulate the allocation of council seats might well have been
election-day posturing. The controversy over the allocation
of seats will continue regardless, since small party losers
are expected to mount legal challenges to rules adopted by
the TSE which cut down on proportional representation. Those
challenges are unlikely to convince the courts, which are
considered more receptive to the views of the large parties.
Post-electoral controversy will also play out in the
Congress, which could distract it from returning to its
stalled legislative agenda.
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