Cablegate: Ecuadorian Elections Update

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

REF: A. QUITO 2500

B. QUITO 2249
C. QUITO 2251
D. QUITO 2076

1. (U) Summary: With less than a month remaining before
Ecuador's October 17 elections, there remain several items of
concern which, left unresolved, could prejudice a clean and
orderly vote. The Embassy will continue to work with
electoral authorities to encourage resolution of these
issues. End Summary.

Key Election Stats

2. (U) On October 17, an estimated six million of Ecuador's
eight million eligible voters will visit 34,618 voting
stations to elect 22 provincial prefects (prefects are
governor-equivalents; governors are appointed by the
President), 219 mayors, 91 provincial council members, 893
municipal council members, and 3,970 members of rural town
councils. Although voting is mandatory, turnout rates
normally vary between 60-70%. The election campaign began on
August 31 and ends on October 14. Media and polling
organizations are not permitted to publicize poll results
after September 26.

Electoral Preparations Underway

3. (U) The Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) has begun
training vote station workers (a total of 276,974 nationwide)
and 10,560 political party representatives, who will monitor
those stations on election day. TSE President Nicanor
Moscoso has approached the Embassy to request that the
Ambassador publicly sign an agreement codifying USG
assistance to the TSE ($400,000 from USAID). The Ambassador
is disposed to do so once key election procedural issues (see
below) are resolved.

Key Issues Unresolved

4. (SBU) Congress has not acted on a request by the TSE that
it replace the previous scheme (struck down by the
Constitutional Court) to allocate municipal and provincial
council seats among parties. President of Congress Guillermo
Landazuri has announced, however, that Congress will resume
debate on electoral reforms on September 23 (earlier, 52
Congressional deputies made a written request of Landazuri
that he kick-start the discussions). TSE President Nicanor
Moscoso has publicly pledged to issue a decree to resolve the
seat allocation issue, should Congress fail to act.
Supporting Moscoso's position and providing political cover,
Solicitor General Jose Maria Borja, responding to a
congressman's request for an advisory opinion, offered
September 22 that the TSE was competent to emit such an
order. Until this issue is resolved, the potential for
post-electoral conflict over the allocation of council seats
among parties is high.

5. (SBU) Most political analysts concur that prospects for
Congressional action on the allocation of council seats or to
raise or eliminate campaign spending limits are dim. Major
parties (Democratic Left and the Social Christian Party) are
unwilling to cede ground to proportional representation and
oppose campaign finance reforms because, unlike their smaller
challengers, the major parties do not fear punishment by TSE
bodies, which they can manipulate.

First Case of Election Violence

6. (U) On September 16, according to press reports, a
campaign worker was killed by a town council candidate from
another party. According to witnesses, Cely Garcia, the
campaign worker for the PRIAN party, was shot by Galo
Zambrano, the candidate for the Social Christian Party (PSC)
while posting PRIAN electoral propaganda over that of the PSC
in the town of Viche, San Lorenzo municipality, in Esmeraldas
province. Zambrano's driver was arrested, but Zambrano fled.
This appears to be an isolated incident.

Observation Issues

7. (U) Citizens Participation, the most prominent Ecuadorian
electoral observation NGO supported by USAID, plans to field
3,100 volunteer electoral observers on election day. The
group is already monitoring candidates' campaign expenses,
including costs for access to the media. On election day,
Citizens Participation will conduct a quick count based on a
sample of approximately 500 polling stations each in Quito,
Guayaquil and Cuenca. Executive director Cesar Montufar told
PolCouns on September 21 that no final decision has been
taken on when to publicize the results of the quick count; he
implied it would likely be on the morning after the election.
8. (U) Local OAS representatives have not been informed
whether the OAS will mount an observation effort. TSE
President Nicanor Moscoso sent an appeal on September 7 to
OAS Elections Coordinator Elizabeth Spehar requesting, in
addition to the observation mission requested by the Foreign
Ministry, an OAS technical team to assist with monitoring of
vote tabulation centers. We believe a positive OAS response
to these requests is likely. Should the OAS send an
observation mission, the Embassy will offer volunteers.

Campaign Expenses Mount

9. (SBU) According to Citizens Participation, one candidate,
Rodrigo Paz, has already exceeded artificially low campaign
spending limits in the race for mayor of Quito. By their
calculation, achieved by monitoring the air-time for pro-Paz
radio and TV advertising, as of September 21 Paz had spent
$52,000, exceeding the $40,118 limit set by Congress.
Overspending is punished by a fine determined in a
post-electoral review by the TSE. Paz told PolCouns on
September 21 that his main competitor, incumbent Mayor Paco
Moncayo, enjoyed an unfair advantage, as he was using
municipal funds to publicize public works conducted during
his tenure, which is not counted as a campaign expense.

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