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Ecuador runoff could test military's tolerance

Following the defeat of the conservative government candidate in Ecuador's presidential election, two opposition candidates will face each other in a May 8 runoff that could test the patience of the military and current administration. In Sunday's vote, Rodrigo Borja Cevallos, of the Democratic Left Party, won 20 percent of the vote, while Abdal'a Bucaram Ortiz, of the center-left Roldosista Party, took 15 percent, according to unofficial results put out by the secretary of public information.

The government candidate, Sixto Duran Ball'en, apparently suffering from his identification with unpopular rightist economic and social policies, ran third in the field of 10 candidates.

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Mr. Borja's Social Democrats have won some 27 of the 71 congressional seats, reflecting the party's solid national organization. Should he be elected president, Borja could easily put together a parliamentary majority.

But the large vote won by Mr. Bucaram after a very short campaign concentrated on the coast suggests he may be difficult to beat once he expands his crusade to the rest of the country. He is likely to draw the majority of votes cast for other populist figures in the first round.

With one candidate from the highland and the other from the coast, strong regional prejudices are in play. Both Bucaram and Borja have chosen vice presidents from the other's region in an attempt to broaden their appeal.

Although Borja's vote will probably be boosted by center-left highland parties such as the Popular Democrats, he lacks the personal magnetism and aggressive energy of his rival.

Bucaram's presence in the second round raises two important questions.

The government's attitude toward the second round. There is strong antagonism between President Le'on Febres Cordero and Borja. The government allowed Bucaram to return from his Panamaian exile to run for the presidency, despite charges against him for mishandling funds and insulting the armed forces.

Action by the military. There would undoubtedly be support from some factors for the armed forces if they prevented Bucaram from taking over the presidency on Aug. 10. But the will to keep a young democracy alive in Ecuador is also strong, and there is still another election to be fought.

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