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Cablegate: No Surprises in Guayas and Guayaquil Elections

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 GUAYAQUIL 001120

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL KDEM EC
SUBJECT: NO SURPRISES IN GUAYAS AND GUAYAQUIL ELECTIONS


1. (SBU) Summary: A pre-electoral assessment of Ecuador's
largest city of Guayaquil and the surrounding province of
Guayas suggests that the incumbent Social Christian Party
(PSC) mayor and provincial prefect are likely to be re-
elected in local elections on October 17. Any result
short of a PSC sweep of its political base in Guayas
would be interpreted as a setback for the PSC at the
national level. President Guitierrez's Patriotic Society
(PSP) candidates for mayor and prefect have almost no
support. Some opposition politicians have expressed
concern about possible electoral fraud in Guayas, but
their concerns appear to have been addressed. OAS plans
to field eletion observers in Guayas to monitor the use
of eletronic voting machines there. End Summary.

Background
----------

2. (U) The province of Guayas has a total of 2,266,274
eligible voters (26% of the national total), of which
1,440,070 are in Guayaquil. There are 10,016 voting
centers across Guayas, with 7,211 located in Guayaquil.
Voters will elect one provincial prefect, 28 mayors (all
incumbents are up for reelection), 8 provincial
councilors, 123 municipal councilors, and 37 rural
councils representing 123,000 rural voters. Guayas is
one of five Ecuadorian provinces testing a new electronic
voting system. The system will be tested in the
parroquia (parish) of Roca, which has 18,483 voters and
93 voting centers.

3. (U) The 2000 election for prefect in Guayas was
tainted by allegations of fraud against the PSC. FE
Humberto Mata who was then a candidate of the political
movement Fuerza Ecuador, officially received almost
400,000 votes, only 50,000 fewer than PSC winner Nicolas
Lapentti. Mata and his supporters charged that votes
were stolen from him by manipupaltion of the vote count
by the PSC although Mata told Guayaquil CG months ago
that he did not believe enough were stolen to cost him
the election. The PSC currently dominates in Guayaquil
and Guayas. In 2002 presidential elections, PSC
candidate Javier Neira (PSC) took 26% of the Guayas vote,
followed by Alvaro Noboa (PRIAN) with 24%. In the second
round of presidential voting in 2002, Noboa won 67% of
the Guayas vote to President Gutierrez' 33%.

Incumbents Favored in Major Races
---------------------------------


4. (SBU) According to various polls, all of which are
considered to have a significant margin of error,
incumbent mayor of Guayaquil Jaime Nebot is ahead by a
wide margin in the Guayaquil mayoral race. Polls sugest
that Nebot, the popular Social Christian Party (PSC)
candidate for re-election, will receive about 65% of the
vote while his closest contender, TV personality Jimmy
Jairala of the Ecuadorian Roldosist Party (PRE), has
about 20%. The PRIAN hopeful, Fernando Barreno barely
reaches 3%. For prefect, Nicolas Lapentti (PSC), who is
seeking a fourth term, is leading in the polls with 51%.
His closets contender is Humberto Mata from Fuerza
Ciudadana with 22% followed by Gloria Gallardo of PRIAN
with about 7%. The candidates for mayor and prefect from
Patriotic Society (President Guitierrez' political
party), Felipe Mantilla and Renan Borbua respectively,
have single digit support of two percent or less.


ELECTION PREPARATIONS UNDERWAY
------------------------------

5. (SBU) GUAYAQUIL CONSUL GENERAL MET WITH THE PRESIDENT
OF GUAYAS ELECTORAL TRIBUNAL (TEG) DR. WALTER AVILES ON
SEPTEMBER 29. AVILES BELIEVES THE IMPROVEMENTS HE HAS
MADE WILL PRODUCE TRANSPARENT ELECTION RESULTS WITH
LITTLE ROOM FOR CORRUPTION. A BOARD POSTED AT EACH
VOTING CENTER TO REGISTER VOTES WILL BE ACCESSIBLE TO ALL
ELECTION MONITORS AT THE VOTING CENTERS AND WILL LIMIT
THE POSSIBILITY FOR FRAUD BECAUSE THE VOTE COUNT FOR EACH
CANDIDATE WILL BE AVAILABLE TO ALL. AVILES REPORTED THE
TEG HEADQUARTERS WOULD BE OPENED TO POLITICAL PARTY
REPRESENTATIVES OR CITIZENS WHO WANT TO WATCH THE PROCESS
IN PERSON THROUGH TWO VIDEO CAMERAS AND TWO HUGE SCREENS
INSTALLED IN THE TEG AUDITORIUM. THE TEG HAS EXAMINED
REPORTS OF POSSIBLE FRAUD IN THE LISTING OF GUAYAQUIL
ELECTION MONITORES RELATED TO THE MUNICIPALITY AND
PREFECTURE, BUT THESE WERE CLARIFIED AND RESOLVED THROUGH
ADDITIONAL DOCUMENTATION SUBMITTED BY THE ACTING MAYOR
AND PREFECT. AVILES SAID MORE THAN 90,000 NEW VOTERS
HAVE BEEN REGISTERED SINCE NOVEMBER 2003 AND GUAYAS
PROVINCE WILL TRAIN 60,000 PEOPLE TO WORK IN VOTING
BOOTHS ON OCTOBER 17.

FRAUD CONCERNS BEING ADDRESSED
------------------------------

6. (SBU) RECENT ALLEGATIONS OF POSSIBLE ELECTORAL FRAUD
BY ROBERTO PONCE (PRIAN), VICE-PRESIDENT OF THE ELECTORAL
TRIBUNAL OF GUAYAS (TEG), AND ENRIQUE PITA (ID) HAVE
RESULTED IN THE SUPREME ELECTORAL TRIBUNAL (TSE)
REASSIGNINIG SOME ELECTION DAY PERSONNEL. PONCE AND PITA
CLAIMED THAT THE MAJORITY OF PERSONNEL CHOSEN TO WORK AT
POLLING PLACES ON ELECTION DAY WERE MUNICIPAL EMPLOYEES
WHO HAD BEEN LISTED AS EMPLOYEES FROM PRIVATE COMPANIES.
AS A RESULT, THE TSE RECONSTITUTED LISTS OF 2,793 POLL
WORKERS IN 27 CANTONS.

7. (SBU) GUAYAQUIL CONSUL GENERAL ALSO MET WITH
ANUNZIATTA VALDEZ, SUB-DIRECTOR OF THE USAID-FUNDED
ELECTORAL WATCHDOG NGO "CITIZEN PARTICIPATION (PC),"ON
SEPTEMBER 30. VALDEZ CHARACTERISED GUAYAQUIL AS A
TOLERANT, RESPECTABLE, AND POLITICALLY MATURE CITY. SHE
DOES NOT ANTICIPATE ANY VIOLENCE ON ELECTION DAY AND, TO
THE CONTRARY, BELIEVES VOTERS REMAIN LARGELY APATHETIC
ABOUT THE ELECTIONS. THERE HAVE NOT BEEN ANY CASES OF
PRE-ELECTORAL VIOLENCE IN GUAYAS TO DATE. VALDEZ
REPORTED PC WOULD FIELD 530 VOLUNTEER OBSERVERS IN GUAYAS
ON OCTOBER 17 TO MONITOR THE ELECTIONS AND THE TALLY OF
THE VOTES. VALDEZ PRAISED THE WORK OF THE TEG AND NOTED
THE TEG HAD FULLY COOPERATED WITH PC'S OBSERVATION
EFFORTS. SHE ADDED THAT MANY CANDIDATES HAVE ALSO
EXPRESSED SUPPORT FOR THE INVOLVEMENT OF CITIZENS
PARTICIPATION IN ELECTION OBSERVATION.

Comment
-------

8. (SBU) THE POPULARITY OF THE PSC HAS GROWN IN GUAYAS
OVER THE LAST FOUR YEARS WITH THE ACCOMPLISHMENT OF
VISIBLE PHYSICAL IMPROVEMENTS TO THE CITY OF GUAYAQUIL
AND THE ROAD SYSTEM IN THE PROVINCE, AND WILL LIKELY
RESULT IN THE RE-ELECTION OF THE TOP PSC CONTENDERS. THE
PRE AND PRIAN, AND EVEN MORE SO THE UPSTART PSP, HAVE ALL
HAD DIFFICULTY MAKING INROADS AGAINST THE PSC'S
INCUMBENCY ADVANTAGE IN GUAYAS. ANY RESULT SHORT OF A
SWEEP IN GUAYAS PROVINCE WOULD BE INTERPRETED AS A
SETBACK FOR THE PSC AT THE NATIONAL LEVEL, WHERE IT
REMAINS THE LARGEST SINGLE PARTY IN CONGRESS.


9. (SBU) WITH LITTLE DOUBT ABOUT THE OUTCOME OF THE
MAJOR RACES FOR MAYOR OF GUAYAQUIL (JAIME NEBOT) AND FOR
PREFECT OF GUAYAS (NICOLAS LAPENTTI), THERE IS LITTLE
EXCITEMENT ABOUT THE ELECTIONS IN THE STREETS. THERE IS
ALSO RELATIVELY LITTLE CAMPAIGN ACTIVITY TAKING PLACE IN
GUAYAQUIL ITSELF, ALTHOUGH SURROUNDING AREAS IN THE
PROVINCE ARE BEDECKED WITH THE USUAL ELECTORAL TRAPPING
OF BANNERS, PAINTED WALLS, SLOGANS AND POLITICAL RALLIES.
IMPROVEMENTS IN THE ELECTION MONITORING PROCESS AND WHAT
APPEARS TO BE A COMFORTABLE LEAD FOR THE REELECTION OF
LAPENTTI AS PREFECT MAY ELIMINATE, OR AT LEAST REDUCE,
ACCUSATIONS OF ELECTORAL FRAUD THAT MANY IN GUAYAS
BELIEVE PLAYED A CONSIDERABLE ROLE IN THE DEFEAT OF
HUMBERTO MATA WHEN HE RAN AGAINST LAPENTTI IN THE LAST
ELECTION. THE OAS PLANS TO FIELD ELECTION OBSERVERS IN
GUAYAS TO MONITOR THE USE OF ELECTRONIC VOTING MACHINES.

HERBERT

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