Each proposal in President Lasso’s constitutional referendum was rejected by voters
Ecuador’s regional elections and constitutional referendum dealt a strong blow to center-right president Guillermo Lasso. The voters rejected all of President Lasso’s proposed constitutional amendments while also voting in left-wing candidates to key mayoralties and prefectures, including the two largest cities, Quito and Guayaquil. President Lasso’s pro-business reform agenda was already frozen by a hostile legislature, and the recent electoral results will further weaken his mandate. While an improved economic and fiscal situation reduces the risks of the president’s early ouster by protesters or the National Assembly, he remains vulnerable to political agitation. Clients should expect worsening prospects for pro-business reforms and continued political instability to continue to dampen private investment and B2B demand, undermining prospects for an acceleration in growth.
On February 5, Ecuador held regional elections along with a constitutional referendum proposed by President Lasso. The referendum was a last-ditch effort by Lasso to empower his government and shift his worsening political fortunes, which have suffered from social unrest, increasing crime, collapsing approval ratings, and a stalled reform agenda. Among the eight measures included in the constitutional referendum were a reduction in the size of the National Assembly and the approval of extradition of citizens for drug trafficking. All eight of the measures were rejected by voters. At the same time, voters empowered Ecuador’s left-wing candidates and allies of former president Rafael Correa, even giving them the mayoralty of Guayaquil, which has been governed by more moderate leadership for over three decades.
Following the election, President Lasso recognized his defeat at the polls and called for all political sectors to pursue a broad “national accord.”
Ecuador’s highly polarized and disruptive political environment remains a drag on private investment and economic activity. Going forward, the best-case scenario for President Lasso would be for him to avoid ouster through moderation and concessions, while implementing some limited pro-business regulatory changes through executive action and supporting the development of the country’s oil sector. The downside risk of Lasso’s ouster has likely increased, particularly owing to the loss of the mayoralty of the nation’s capital. However, high oil prices and a more stable fiscal environment continue to favor stability.
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