THE election campaign in Ecuador began Friday, January 4 with rallies for all eight presidential candidates, among them the current socialist leader Rafael Correa, currently the favorite to win on February 17.
A total of 11.5 million Ecuadorans are eligible to vote for a president and vice president, 137 ministers and five Andean representatives for the 2013-2017 term.
Correa, who came to power January 15, 2007, is being challenged by right-wing banker Guillermo Lasso, billed as his main rival, by former President Lucio Gutiérrez (2003-2005, overthrown), and by multimillionaire Alvaro Noboa (running for the fifth time).
The other presidential candidates are Evangelical Pastor Néstor Zavala, running in place of ex-President Abdalá Bucaram (1996-1997, exiled in Panama), right-wing Mauricio Rodas, and leftists Alberto Acosta and Norman Wray, both former allies of Correa.
The election campaign, with a total of 1,400 candidates for the different political positions, runs up to February 14, during which time electoral spending is allowed, with an expected $1.7 million going to the presidential and vice presidential campaigns.
Correa, leader of the left-wing Alianza País movement, is the favorite in the first round, with a 60.6% voting preference reported by the independent Opinion Profiles poll taken in December.
The President, whose current term ends May 24, is leading the polls by a large margin over his rivals. Lasso is second with 11.2%, followed by Gutiérrez (4.5%), after predicted no returns (10.8%) and invalid ballots (6.9%). Trailing behind are Acosta (3.5%), Noboa (1.8%), Zavala (0.2%), Rodas (0.3%) and Wray (0.2%).
Parliament has given Correa a 30-day license, from January 15 to February 14, for the campaign, while Vice President Lenín Moreno has taken over his official duties.
Correa, reelected in 2009 in an historic first round of early elections, called after a new constitution was passed, met with hundreds of sympathizers in southern Quito before moving on to the coastal town of Portoviejo (southeast) to officially start his campaign.
The other presidential candidates will also be holding party rallies and events in main cities around the country.