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Cablegate: Final 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

1. (U) Summary: This cable provides information about the
upcoming October 17 provincial/local elections, their
significance, a summary of Embassy involvement in the OAS
electoral observation mission, information on how to reach us
on election day, suggested press guidance, and a synopsis of
recent election-related developments. End Summary.

Why This Election is Important

2. (SBU) This election could spell the end of President
Gutierrez' Patriotic Society Party (PSP), which must win at
least 5% of the national vote for council seats to stay in
business. President Gutierrez has defied tradition and
generated controversy by stumping openly for his party's
candidates in an effort to stave off a humiliating defeat.
Despite the President's campaign efforts and largesse,
experts differ on whether this effort will be sufficient to
clear the 5% hurdle. In addition to the PSP, four other
parties are facing the same prospect of electoral oblivion.
De-certification of a political party is not automatic,
however, and the PSP could find allies among other parties
represented on the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE). The TSE
will deliberate on the issue 35-45 days after the election,
when results become official. To re-constitute a
de-certified party under a new name requires the collection
of 85,000 signatures.

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3. (SBU) A well-run election should help regenerate faith in
the democratic process, and encourage the opposition to
channel its anti-government energies into competing in the
2006 presidential and congressional elections. We believe it
is in the U.S. interest to promote this result. Conversely a
badly run election or even a bad PSP loss might embolden the
President's political enemies to step up ongoing challenges
to this government's legitimacy.

4. (SBU) Beyond their national implications, these local
elections should help strengthen Ecuadorian democracy. A
recent USAID-commissioned survey showed that among eight
Latin American countries surveyed, citizens of Ecuador had
the highest level of trust in local governments, and one of
the lowest levels of trust in national institutions. The
study also showed a direct link between trust for local
governments and support for democracy.

Embassy Participation in OAS Mission

5. (SBU) We will contribute 37 volunteers from the Embassy
and CG Guayaquil to the OAS observation effort. Seven teams
of two volunteers will deploy outside of Quito/Pichincha and
Guayaquil/Guayas, to observe the elections in Babahoyo,
Machala, Cuenca, Tena, Manta, Esmeraldas and Otavalo. Three
teams of will participate in an OAS quick count in Quito.
Two teams with a total of five volunteers will cover

How to Reach Us on Election Day

6. (U) The polls will be open from 0700 to 1700 on election
day; it will take officials several hours to count and report
election results. On October 17, the Embassy will maintain
an election coordination center to field calls from Embassy
observers and maintain contact with the OAS, TSE and
electoral watchdog NGO Citizens Participation. We will
report any significant developments to the Department's
Operations Center on October 17, and will report final
results by cable on October 18.

7. (U) The Embassy election coordination center can be
reached at:
(593) (2) 256-2890 ext. 4471 or 3471
(593) (2) 254-0502
(593) (9) 984-2841 (PolChief Erik Hall cell)

Suggested Press Guidance

8. (U) Assuming the elections take place without incident or
serious challenge, we suggest the Department respond to any
queries with the following guidance: "Ecuador recently
celebrated 25 years of democracy. We congratulate the
Ecuadorian people on continuing Ecuador's democratic
tradition with free, fair, and transparent elections."

Latest Electoral Developments

9. (U) Proportional Representation: On October 12, small
parties in Congress failed in a sixth and probably final
attempt to legislate a system to allocate council seats among
parties. The vote in favor of debate on the issue was just
three short of a simple majority. Interestingly, two
Congress members whose parties were in favor, from the PRIAN
and PRE, were absent for the vote. As a result, the system
chosen earlier by the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, known as
the "Imperial" or "Webster" system, will remain in effect.
This system provides for proportional representation but is
less favorable to the small parties than the "d'Hont" system
struck down as unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court.
While a post-electoral legal challenge to the TSE's selected
system is likely, most observers expect the Constitutional
Court to support the TSE.

10. (U) Electoral Watchdog Upbeat but Alert: Citizens
Participation director Cesar Montufar told PolChief on
October 13 that his objections to the TSE decision were
procedural in nature. Although the constitution makes it
clear that Congress, not the TSE, should have resolved the
issue, Montufar believes the courts will reject any
post-electoral challenges from small party candidates.
Montufar downplayed his public statements warning that this
issue could undermine the credibility of the elections, and
said he expected the elections to proceed smoothly overall.
He expressed greatest concern about the possibility for
irregularities after the voting booths close and report their
results to provincial electoral tribunals. His concern is
that in some provinces (Guayas, Esmeraldas) the provincial
tribunals might annul significant numbers of results on
questionable (and partisan) grounds. These deliberations
will take place outside the electoral observation process,
and could take weeks to play out behind closed doors, he
said. For its part, Citizens Participation plans several
press conferences on election day to report on qualitative
aspects of the process, and will conduct a quick count for
the mayor's races in Quito, Guayaquil, and Cuenca. Results
could be released late on election night or on October 18.

11. (U) Electoral Violence: A candidate for provincial
council in El Oro province for the PRIAN party was shot and
killed on October 8 in Guayaquil. Press reported that Jhon
Lamota was shot during an attempted car-jacking. A PRIAN
party spokesman called for a full investigation of the crime
and denounced a pattern of violence against party members and
workers, including the murders of two other PRIAN party
members (in Esmeraldas and El Oro provinces) on September 11,
and violence against another in Guayas province on August 17
and September 25.

12. (U) AID Candidate Fora Great Success: On October 12,
Citizens Participation and other civil society groups
completed a series of over 50 fora for citizens to meet with
candidates to hear about their technical and financial
proposals. The fora were successful at better informing
voters, especially young voters, by raising public awareness
about the candidates' platforms and encouraging civil debate
among candidates.

13. (U) Campaign Spending: The 45-day election campaign
formally ends on October 14, when campaign activity must
cease. According to Citizens Participation, as of October
13, two of the four mayoral candidates for Quito have
exceeded legal spending limits and incumbent mayor Paco
Moncayo is very close to doing the same. Traditionally,
violators of campaign spending limits are required to pay a
fine after the elections. Meanwhile, incumbent mayor of
Guayaquil Jaime Nebot has publicly called on the Comptroller
General investigate the private firm "Interview," contracted
by the Electoral Tribunal to monitor campaign spending.
Citizens Participation has also asked the TSE to make public
the data gathered by Interview.

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