Ecuador is due to hold general elections on Sunday amid suggestions that the outcome could strengthen what some see as a revival of populist brands of socialism in the Andean region, with differing visions of the future role for the oil industry.


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Of 16 candidates vying for the presidency, three have a realistic chance of winning.

Former banker Guillermo Lasso heads a conservative alliance with a power base of industrialists in the port city of Guayaquil.

Lasso’s vision for the economy emphasises the role of private sector investment in a ravaged economy, with the oil industry at the centre.

Andres Arauz, a 35-year-old economist, and Yaku Perez, an indigenous leader and environmental activist, are competing for progressive votes.

Arauz was a Cabinet member under the former administration of president Rafael Correa, but might struggle to re-instate the latter’s populism in a world where demand for crude has declined.

Perez, a lawyer, has said he aims to attract socialist voters who do not feel represented by Correa’s brand of populism, now represented by Arauz.

Perez promises to prioritise environmental concerns and views Ecuador’s oil and mining sectors with open distrust.

A split vote — and many undecided voters — has led most analysts to predict the election will go to a run-off vote.

Ecuador’s outgoing leader, President Lenin Moreno, won some international praise in the first half of his term after turning away from the interventionist policies of his former mentor, Correa.

He introduced market reforms, including licensing rounds for the oil sector, as well as ending curbs on press freedom.

However, Moreno ran into trouble in 2019, when parts of the population in the capital Quito turned against his austerity programme, which included fuel price hikes.

His administration was also accused of bungling the coronavirus pandemic by failing to organise timely lockdowns.