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Cablegate: Pre-Election Report: Pichincha Province Leans Left

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E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KDEM PGOV EC
SUBJECT: PRE-ELECTION REPORT: PICHINCHA PROVINCE LEANS LEFT

1. (SBU) Summary. Populous highlands Pichincha province,
where Ecuador's capital of Quito is located, is second only
to Guayas province in terms of registered voters. In a
historical rarity, none of the current leading presidential
candidates hail from the province or the highlands region.
According to the latest polls, both leftist presidential
candidates Rafael Correa (Alianza PAIS) and Leon Roldos
(RED-ID) are popular here, where the Democratic Left Party
(ID) enjoys local dominance. Alvaro Noboa follows with 11%,
and Cynthia Viteri trails with just 7% support. Outside the
capital, voters resent being overlooked in the province-wide
race for congress, which is expected to return the ID to at
least six of 14 seats. One fast-growing municipality, Santo
Domingo de los Colorados, has demanded a referendum on
whether to break away from Pichincha to demand its own
province. End Summary.

Provincial Background and Electoral History
-------------------------------------------

2. (U) Pichincha, home to Ecuador's capital of Quito, is
Ecuador's second-largest province with 19% of the country's
voters (only Guayas province is larger, with 25%). The
Democratic Left Party (ID) has dominated Pichincha in the
recent past, and currently controls the prefecture (U.S.
governor-equivalent, won in 2004 by Ramiro Gonzalez, now VP
candidate under Roldos, with 47%), the Quito mayoralty (won
in 2004 by Paco Moncayo), the majority of the Quito municipal
(9 of 15 seats) council and a majority of the provincial
council (7 of 12). ID presidential candidate Rodrigo Borja
won the first round of presidential elections in 2002 with
30% support, followed by Lucio Gutierrez (23%), Leon Roldos
(17%) and Alvaro Noboa (11%). Gutierrez went on to beat
Noboa 74% to 26% in Pichincha in the second round. The ID
won six of Pichincha's 14 Congress seats; no other party won
more than one seat apiece with the exception of the Patriotic
Society-Pachakutik alliance, which won two but subsequently
split apart.

Electoral Authorities Sanguine
------------------------------

3. (SBU) Alvaro Paez, president of the Pichincha Electoral
Council, told PolChief he did not expect electoral fraud or
problems administering elections on October 15. Pichincha
had not suffered from the irregularities often found in the
coastal region, he said. Cooperation between the provincial
and national election authorities was good, made easier by
proximity. Paez rejected claims by several presidential of
planned electoral fraud leveled against the Defense Minister
(a PSC ally) as politically-motivated and without any proven
basis. The military is not in a position to change voting
results during the transportation of the ballots, since the
election results are made public at the voting table, and
also transmitted electronically to the central election
authorities. If ballots went missing, it would be obvious at
the tabulation centers in the capital.

Presidential Sweepstakes
------------------------

4. (SBU) Cedatos' poll of October 2 puts undecided voters in
the highlands region (including Pichincha) at 41%. Among
decided voters, Correa leads with 38%, followed by Roldos
with 22%, Alvaro Noboa (PRIAN) with 11%, Cynthia Viteri (PSC)
at 7% and Gilmar Gutierrez (PSP) at 5%. Among the undecided,
24% were inclined to nullify their vote, 17% were inclined
toward Correa, 16% toward Roldos, followed by 8% inclining
toward Noboa. Asked who they would vote for if elections
were held on October 2, 30% of respondents (decided and
undecided) sided with Correa, followed by 20% for Roldos, 19%
would vote null, and 10% would vote for Noboa.

5. (SBU) Juan Velez, the ID campaign manager in Pichincha,
worried in a recent conversation with PolChief about the
possibility of there not being a second round. He blamed
Roldos for being overconfident, and the traditionally high
number of null and blank votes, as benefiting Correa. Correa
had benefited by attacking LFC, but Roldos could not do the
same, since he is depending on PSC support in the second
round, if it comes. Instead, he will change his campaign
style, seeking to "get closer" to poorer voters. Viteri's
national campaign manager, Rene Santos, said Viteri and Noboa
have a mutual support agreement, in the event either one
makes the second round. Santos claimed strong rural support
for Viteri would boost her into a second round against
Correa. Viteri has recently changed campaign advisors and
focused on her base in the Coast, leaving the Sierra to her
running-mate Ernesto Davalos (whose family comes from the
south-central highlands). Santos admitted that the PSC would
have to support Roldos against Correa in the second round, if
Viteri does not make it.

Congressional Race
------------------

6. (SBU) The Congressional ballot in Pichincha is more
notable for its length than for the quality of the
candidates. Eighteen parties or movements have entered
candidates for each of the 14 openings, resulting in a total
of 252 choices for voters to select from. Only a handful of
these individual candidates are well known to voters, with
the strongest concentration in the Democratic Left Party
list. Wilma Andrade, the Vice Mayor and Quito City Council
member, leads that list, for reasons of gender equity and
party balance between contending party leaders. Andres Paez,
one of those leaders, is running for re-election and is
second on the ID list, but first in popularity. Ex-president
Lucio Gutierrez' wife, Ximena Bohorquez heads the Patriotic
Society Party list. Gutierrez' notorious head of the
Secretariat of Social Welfare, Bolivar Gonzalez, heads the

SIPDIS
list for Abdala Bucaram's Roldosista Party. The Socialist
Party, running candidates in alliance with Rafael Correa's
PAIS Movement, is likely to win at least one seat, for Rafael
Quintero. The PRIAN list is headed by Frederico Perez
Intriago, brother of a former Quito mayor (and one-time
Palacio nominee as Ambassador to the U.S.).

7. (SBU) Carlos Larreategui, president of the re-shuffled
Christian Democratic Union (UDC, formerly DP), is also
heading his party list for Pichincha deputy. In a recent
discussion with PolChief Larreategui predicted the UDC would
win up to eight congressional deputies nationwide, including
one or two from Pichincha, two in Manabi, and one in Bolivar.
The UDC supports stability, development, openness to trade,
and is committed to internal democracy. The party plans to
hold internal primaries for presidential candidates in 2010,
and is currently receiving technical assistance from NDI and
IRI. Larreategui worried about Correa's rise and prospects
for governance/stability under next government. Correa's
constituent assembly plans are unrealistic and would provoke
constitutional crisis with Congress. Larreategui claimed
credit for the story of Correa's visit to Chavez' family home
in Venezuela (due to coincidental meetings at airports, which
he spilled to the press). Larreategui predicted that the PSC
and other right-wing parties would back Roldos. He agreed
that in this circumstance, Roldos was likely to move left
somewhat to poach Correa's base.

Local Races and Issues
----------------------

8. (SBU) Quito voters will elect seven of 15 Municipal
Councilors and Pichincha voters will elect five of 12
provincial councilors. During a recent visit to the outlying
municipality of Santo Domingo de los Colorados--the
province's second-largest city--political, civil society and
electoral authorities described the local dynamics behind the
PSC mayor's call for a local referendum on making the
municipality (with a growing population of 300,000) a
separate province. Pichincha electoral authorities conceded
to the local demand after a municipal strike was held on
September 18. Pichincha electoral tribunal president Alvaro
Paez said the referendum would be symbolic and non-binding,
and would be postponed until after the elections. No party
was opposed, but Santo Domingo was still a long way from
becoming a province, after ten years trying.

9. (SBU) Our contacts in Santo Domingo complained about the
lack of attention from congressional candidates (who must
seek votes from the entire province of Pichincha), but said
the major presidential candidates had all visited. They
described a generation divide between young, native-born
Santo Domingans, encouraged by Ramiro Gonzalez in Quito, and
the older generation of political leaders who still control
provincial politics. Perhaps as a result, Roldos and Correa
were the favorites, and Viteri and Noboa also had a presence.
Viteri's chances were hurt by corruption associated with the
PSC mayor of Santo Domingo, according to critics.
Comment
-------

10. (SBU) The most recent polling shows Pichincha inclined
toward Correa and Roldos for president, with Noboa trailing
in third place. Correa benefits from Pichincha's
demographics, which are more heavily urban and middle class
than elsewhere in the country, which favors the revolutionary
changes he espouses. Viteri is notably weak in the capital
and the surrounding region. Viteri's running-mate,
businessman Ernesto Davalos, was chosen to provide geographic
balance to the ticket but has failed to muster much support
in the central highlands, including Pichincha.

11. (SBU) In the congressional races, the ID should have no
trouble maintaining its dominance of the Pichincha
congressional delegation, with a smattering of other parties
winning through proportional representation. Anything less
than six seats would be considered an embarrassing loss for
the ID, according to the ID campaign manager.
JEWELL

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