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Ecuador Elects President, Congress Sunday - 2002-10-19


Voters in Ecuador go to the polls Sunday to choose a new president and members of Congress. Eleven candidates are vying for the presidency as polls show voters are undecided about who should lead the small Andean nation.

The last two democratically-elected presidents of Ecuador were not able to complete their terms in office. Both Abdala Bucaram and Jamil Mahuad were unseated in coups that were generally bloodless. Now Mr. Bucaram's brother, Jacobo, is among the many candidates for Ecuador's presidency, as are two of the coup leaders who helped remove Mr. Mahuad from office in early 2000. They are Indian leader Antonio Vargas and Colonel Lucio Gutierrez. The pair formed a triumvirate with a Supreme Court judge, ruling Ecuador for just a matter of hours.

Leading in polls this week was former president Rodrigo Borja, who was in office from 1988 to 1992. His lead over banana exporter Alvaro Noboa was small. Mr. Borja had 18 percent of the vote, Mr. Noboa with 15 percent.

Earlier polls have shown Mr. Noboa with a small lead.

Mr. Noboa proclaims himself as market-friendly, and says he's not a politician in Ecuador's politics-weary ambiance. He's often seen as a populist, as was his friend and former president Abdala Bucaram. He finds wide support in Ecuador's coastal region; Mr. Borja finds more backing in the socially-conservative Andes region. He is a left of center Social Democrat who is making his fifth bid for the presidency.

Another former president, Oswaldo Hurtado, cast his hat into the ring as well. He became president in 1981 when head of state Jaime Roldos died in a plane crash. The late president's brother, Leon Roldos became vice president.

Mr. Roldos is also in this year's presidential race. He has the distinction of being the only socialist serving in Ecuador's congress.

Ecuador's former ambassador to the United States Ivonne Baki has the distinction of being the only female candidate. Candidate Cesar Alarcon is a private sector independent. Social Christian Party candidate Xavier Niera is backed by former president Leon Febres Cordero, whose strong rule in the 1980s saw Ecuador through difficulties with leftist insurgencies. Attorney Jacinto Velasquez is making his second bid for president.

A candidate must garner more than 50 percent of votes cast. Otherwise, the two highest vote-getters will go to a run-off election in November.

Ecuador's eight-million voters will also choose 100 lawmakers, several dozen provincial officials and several hundred town councilors.

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