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    Ecuador's President Rafael Correa (R) embraces former vice president and presidential candidate Lenin Moreno. | Photo: Vicepresidencia Ecuador

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Frontrunner Lenin Moreno, in a wheelchair since being shot in 1998, has been a leading champion for rights of people with disabilities in Ecuador.

Ecuador kicked off its election campaign Tuesday ahead of the Feb. 19 vote that will determine whether President Rafael Correa’s progressive policies and so-called “Citizen’s Revolution” will continue in the South American country for another four years.

Ecuador's Citizens' Revolution: Retaking Power from the Old Elites

After the 45-day campaign, Ecuadoreans will cast their ballots for president and members of the National Assembly and also vote on a referendum on whether to block elected officials and public servants from stashing wealth in offshore tax havens.

The election comes as President Correa and his Alianza Pais party wrap up 10 years in government championing social and economic policies that have lifted 1.5 million people out of poverty since 2007, tripled tax collection through more efficient processes, expanded universal health care and education, and made advances in controlling unemployment.

As the campaign officially gets underway, Alianza Pais’ Lenin Moreno — Correa’s vice president from 2007 to 2013 and former U.N. Special Envoy on Disability and Accessibility — holds the favored spot in the polls with 28.6 percent of the popular vote, according to a recent Market survey.

Trailing behind the frontrunner, the Social Christian Party’s Cynthia Viteri polled at 19.3 percent, CREO’s Guillermo Lasso at 17.7 percent and the National Agreement for Change coalition’s Paco Moncayo at 14.8 percent.

But despite Moreno’s clear lead, the presidential election is likely to go to a second round vote, which would be held on April 2 and could open the door for the conservative opposition to unite against the left-wing Alianza Pais.

Correa: When Neoliberalism Rears Its Head, Ecuador Fights Back

Meanwhile, more than 3,500 candidates are vying for 137 seats in Ecuador’s National Assembly and five more seats in the Andean Parliament, the legislative assembly of the Andean Community made up of Ecuador, Bolivia, Colombia and Peru.

The referendum question on the Feb. 19 ballot will ask voters: "Do you agree that, for those holding a popularly elected office or for public servants, there should be a prohibition on holding assets or capital, of any nature, in tax havens?"

The election comes as South America has seen a conservative revival and swing back to the right after the so-called socialist “Pink Tide” swept the region beginning with the election of President Hugo Chavez in Venezuela in 1998.

Analysts have argued that the social gains ushered in by the rise of left-wing governments in many Latin American countries also sparked a right-wing backlash that has spurred conservative destabilization campaigns in countries including Ecuador as old elites aim to reclaim power.


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