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Friday, 22 November, 2002, 16:55 GMT
Press cynical about Ecuador candidates
Presidential candidate Alvaro Noboa meets supporters at a rally in Guayaquil
Many remain unconvinced by Alvaro Noboa's message
As Ecuador prepares to elect a new president on Sunday, leading commentators fear neither of the two candidates is up to the job.

Former coup leader and army colonel Lucio Gutierrez takes on Ecuador's wealthiest man, the banana magnate Alvaro Noboa, in the second and decisive round of the presidential election.

Mr Gutierrez is the front-runner and received most votes in the first round last month, seen as marking the end of traditional rule in Ecuador. But his promise to tackle corruption has failed to impress many people.

Neither candidate has set out any serious proposals, instead indulging in a dirty campaign of a repulsive nature

Jorge Vivanco in Expreso

They are concerned he could seek to emulate Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, another former coup leader who took office on a tide of populism and has alienated the United States and international financiers.

Writing in Expreso, commentator Jorge Vivanco Hopes is far from convinced that the endemic instability which has seen a coup and five presidents in the past six years will become a thing of the past.

Dirty campaign

Mr Vivanco condemns both candidates for failing to tackle the issues that matter. "With the vote imminent, neither candidate has set out any serious proposals, instead indulging in a dirty campaign of a repulsive nature which has touched on private issues without any scruples over entering forbidden territory."

He says the country "needs to tackle immense problems...and overcome the moral, political and economic crisis which torments us".

However, the political parties have failed the country through their "blindness and ambitions" by relying on two candidates whose "respective populisms fail to capture the nation's political needs".

The candidates about to get into the ring offer little to deal with the nation's current needs

Antenor Yturralde in El Universo

Mr Vivanco is concerned that "voters' scepticism has reached such extreme limits", with increasing numbers determined to spoil their ballots.

Writing in the major circulation El Universo, published in Guayaquil, Antenor Yturralde feels he can do little other than "cross my fingers".

"The candidates about to get into the ring offer little to deal with the nation's current needs," he says, pointing to their "simplistic and repetitive promises".

Lack of vision

"To run this little republic, we need people with a vision of how Ecuador fits in to the new world," he argues, condemning the candidates for failing to tackle globalisation, the new leadership in China, the failure of IMF policies and the future of Brazil.

"And which of these candidates has spoken to the Ecuadorian people about the situation in Latin America, where dictatorships hide behind democracies?"

"Where are the politicians who understand the need to bring order, sustainable economic development and in increase in the standard of living?" Mr Yturralde laments.

Such cynicism is borne out by an opinion poll in Expreso, where 75% of respondents feel both candidates have avoided dealing with the most important issues facing Ecuador.

A leading Quito daily, Hoy, complains that the campaign has been characterised by "empty promises rather than a rigorous presentation of viable plans and programmes".

The political earthquake which shook Ecuador to its very foundations

Manuel Esteban Mejia in El Universo

It also condemns the main political parties for their "inexplicable silence" over the past few weeks.

Hoy also complains about the deluge of political messages from both candidates, saying it overwhelmed prime-time TV in the run up to Sunday's vote.

But the main challenge, says Hoy, will come after Sunday's vote, when the onus on the present government will be "to work for an orderly transition so that the country enjoys the necessary climate of stability in which to reactivate the economy".

No turning back

Not everyone is cynical. One commentator in El Universo, Manuel Esteban Mejia, welcomes what he describes as "the political earthquake which shook Ecuador to its very foundations" in October.

"One can say that we are not going to vote for Superman or the best ever candidate this Sunday.

"But it will give me pleasure if our new attitude towards our political leaders, emanating from 20 October, takes flight and becomes an unstoppable hurricane."

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

See also:

22 Nov 02 | Americas
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