The final count of votes in Ecuador's October 15 general election shows a discouraging no win situation for the political system. According to the Supreme Electoral Tribunal the winner in eleven of the country's 22 provinces was the blank ballot paper.
This even extended to the province of Pichincha, where the capital Quito is located: the number of blank ballot papers reached 436.462 out of a total 1.771.000 valid cast votes. But since according to Ecuadorian legislation blank ballots and spoiled ballots are not considered valid they have no numeric influence on the final results of the election but certainly presents the political system with a great challenge.
Ecuador's unicameral Congress, made up of a hundred seats, formally takes office next January with a relative majority belonging to the Partido Renovador Institucional Acción Nacional from the leading presidential candidate who faces a run off next November 26.
Conservative Alvaro Noboa, possibly Ecuador's richest man built on a banana export empire (Bonita trade mark) will be facing Rafeal Correa, a US educated economy professor, considered a populist and very closet o Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez.
In the first round Mr. Noboa garnered 26.8% of the vote; Correa 22.8% and Gilmar Gutiérrez 17.4%.
While Mr. Noboa is openly pro-business and supports a free trade agreement with the US, Correa running as an anti-system candidate favors strong windfall taxes on the private oil companies operating in the country (to address the country's "social debt") and wants a review of the US trade agreement.
However since if elected he has promised to call a constitutional assembly to amend the constitution, he did not present candidates and has no Congressional representation.
This means that the second force in Congress is Sociedad Patriótica belonging to ousted president and former colonel Lucio Gutierrez and represented by his brother Gilmar.
These relatively new political groupings seem to have definitively replaced in Congress the traditional right-left parties under the leadership of the Social Christians and the Democratic Left inspired in the Social Democrats.
The latest public opinion polls for the run off show Mr. Noboa leading comfortably over his rival Rafael Correa by 18 points. According to Cedatos-Gallup published over the weekend in Quito, Noboa has 59% vote intention and Mr. Correa 41% of possible valid votes, not counting blank and spoiled ballots.
The public opinion poll interviewed 5.000 people over 18 in 62 different urban and rural areas in 17 of the 22 provinces. The percentage of undecided voters remains in the range of 18 to 22%.
Who ever is elected will be taking office next January 15 replacing caretaker president Alfredo Palacio, a cardiologist who replaced two years ago ousted President Gutierrez. Ecuador has proved one of the most political unstable countries with seven presidents in the last ten years.