Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Latin American and Caribbean Studies

Major Professor

Harry Vanden, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Paul Dosal, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Linda Whiteford, Ph.D.


Ecuador, political parties, Gutiérrez, regionalism, democracy


How has the party affiliation of presidential candidates impacted presidential elections in Ecuador? Historically, how have political party candidates and outsiders performed in elections and how has this changed over the last 20 years of democratic history? This case study attempts to answer fundamental questions about the connections between parties and electablility of presidential candidates. In a country with an inchoate party system and a history of populism, personalist candidates have always had relatively high levels of electoral success. Yet, it would seem that preference for unaligned candidates is increasing. After years of domination by political party candidates, the Ecuadorian people elected two political neophytes to compete in the final round of the 2002 elections. Both campaigned as outsiders, with strong opposition to the party system, and both created personal political parties that served as electoral vehicles.

The dependent variable, the success of outsider candidates in the 2002 elections, appears to come from three main independent variables: a history of weak and highly ineffective parties, voter alienation from institutions due to continuing political and economic crises, and a political culture that revolves around personalist and populist presidents. Because of these evident trends, outsiders in Ecuador have found favorable situations for messages of opposition to the political system. In addition, appeals to alienated citizens, based on a personal campaign, have proven successful in Ecuadorian elections. Parties appear to become increasingly irrelevant in the executive sphere.

After a brief historical orientation, this thesis discusses the impact of the presidencies of Abdala Bucaram (elected 1996, impeached 1997) and Jamil Mahuad (elected 1998, overthrown 2000) as important background for the 2002 election. The hypothesis is that in 2002, alignment with traditional political parties damaged candidates in the presidential elections. This thesis analyzes the presidential candidates that participated in the 2002 campaign, and concludes that affiliating with a traditional political party was a liability for a presidential candidate in the 2002 elections.