In late February, Ecuador’s municipal elections yielded gains for the opposition in an apparent setback for President Rafael Correa. In an email interview, Michael Shifter, president of the Inter-American Dialogue and adjunct professor of Latin American politics at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, explained why the opposition made gains and what’s next for Correa.
WPR: What factors were involved with the Ecuadorean opposition's victory in municipal elections in February?
Michael Shifter: The Ecuadorean opposition’s victory in municipal elections on Feb. 23 was a sharp rebuke to President Rafael Correa, who campaigned heavily and effectively nationalized the vote. The results did not so much reveal the potency of the opposition as much as Correa’s vulnerability. His losses in major cities—the defeat in Quito was especially surprising and painful—can be attributed mainly to his excessive interference in local elections, which many voters resented and believed went too far. Correa overplayed his hand in a country that has had fairly strong local autonomy movements. Polls show he remains very popular—his communication skills are superb, and the country has made some strides in social and economic development. But the elections raise questions about the strength and solidity of his support.