Ecuador’s ruling party candidate appeared to be heading for victory in a presidential runoff that would cement the country’s reputation as a bastion of the Latin American left and provide breathing space for the WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange.
However, the narrow 51% to 49% lead for Lenin Moreno was contested by the opposition candidate, Guillermo Lasso, prompting fears for heightened political tension in the days ahead.
With 97% of votes counted, Moreno, a former vice-president under the outgoing president Rafael Correa, was on course to beat Lasso, a 61-year-old former banker.
The head of Ecuador’s electoral council, Juan Pablo Pozo, called on the opposition candidate to recognise the results. “Ecuador deserves the ethical responsibility from its political actors to recognise the democratic decision made by the people at the ballot box,” Pozo said.
However, Lasso, who had earlier claimed victory based on three exit polls that showed him leading by as much as six points, pointed to irregularities and demanded a recount.
“This is very sickening. We’re not going to allow it,” he said, calling on supporters to protest against the results peacefully but firmly. “They’ve crossed a line.”
Several thousand of his supporters picketed the electoral council headquarters on Sunday night chanting: “We don’t want fraud, we want democracy.”
Meanwhile, Moreno appeared on a stage flanked by Correa and Jorge Glas, the vice-president, as thousands of supporters waved flags in the lime-green colours of the Alianza País coalition and cumbia music blasted into the night.
Moreno called for dialogue with the opposition, saying: “We know how to hear the criticisms. Let’s work together in peace and harmony.”
3rd April 2017