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After seven consecutive electoral victories in seven years, Ecuador’s progressive president Rafael Correa suffered an unexpected reversal of fortunes in the country’s local elections on February 23. This defeat for the ruling Alianza Pai?s (AP) came only a year after Correa trounced the conservative opposition in the 2013 presidential and legislative elections.

After seven consecutive electoral victories in seven years, Ecuador’s progressive president Rafael Correa suffered an unexpected reversal of fortunes in the country’s local elections on February 23. This defeat for the ruling Alianza Pai?s (AP) came only a year after Correa trounced the conservative opposition in the 2013 presidential and legislative elections.

Correa campaigned on the promise of extending the reach of his Citizens’ Revolution with the defeat of Mayor Jaime Nebot of Madera de Guerrero (MG) in the port city of Guayaquil, the one remaining conservative stronghold in the country.

Instead, Correa found himself moving into a defensive position of defending Augusto Barrera as the incumbent mayor of the capital city of Quito against the insurgent conservative candidacy of Mauricio Rodas. The AP lost both races by a 20 percent margin.

Rodas describes himself as a “progressive centrist,” which critics painted as an attempt to hide his ideological roots in the ranks of the traditional conservative Partido Social Cristiano (PSC). Rodas launched Sociedad Unidad Ma?s Accio?n (SUMA) as a vehicle to campaign for the presidency in the 2013 elections, in which he placed fourth. His party won only one seat in the legislative assembly.

With his victory in Quito’s mayoral race, Rodas has replaced Guillermo Lasso from Creando Oportunidades (CREO) as the most likely person to unify a conservative opposition against Correa. Lasso placed second in last year’s presidential and legislative elections, but since then CREO’s political fortunes have declined.

The scope of Correa’s defeat extended beyond Ecuador’s two largest cities. The AP lost the mayoral races in nine of Ecuador’s ten most populous cities, and won only 9 of 24 provincial prefects. SUMA won the most mayoral seats in Ecuador’s 24 provincial capital cities.

Correa was quick to blame his defeat on international conspiracies designed to destabilize his government, but the defeat is better understood through the lens of local factors.

Contributing to the AP’s weak electoral showing were sectarianism with the party, the opportunism of some of its members, and a failure to build alliances with sympathetic parties.

In Quito, Augusto Barrera made strategic errors that contributed to his defeat, including leveraging large parking fines and tolls on key arteries. In contrast, Rodas emphasized a non-ideological pragmatism that played well in Ecuador’s polarized political environment.

The AP also lost the mayoral race in the southern highland city of Cuenca, Ecuador’s third largest city, to Marcelo Cabrera who was running with a left-wing coalition Igualdad-Participa. Correa also lost to Pachakutik candidates Salvador Quishpe and Paul Carrasco in the southern mining districts of Zamora Chinchipe and Morona Santiago. The Indigenous-allied Pachakutik has led a leftist opposition to Correa’s neo-extractivist agenda.

Despite these electoral reversals, Correa’s AP is still the largest political force in Ecuador, and that strength may grow with strategic alliances with small local parties. The conservative opposition remains deeply fragmented, with a constantly shifting political center. In addition, the AP won the majority of 221 mayoral elections and more provincial prefects than any other party. Furthermore, Correa’s AP still holds a controlling majority in the 137-member National Assembly from last year’s legislative elections.

Ecuador’s 2008 constitution bars Correa from seeking reelection in 2017. After the reversals in the February’s 2014 local elections, Correa indicated that he was considering using his legislative majority to push through a constitutional amendment that would allow him to run again for office. Correa retains a high level of support in Ecuador, with the highest popularity ratings of all presidents in the Americas.