Ecuador to hold run-off in tense presidential vote
QUITO – Agence France-PresseEcuador will hold a run-off presidential election in April after a hard fought and inconclusive first round, the electoral commission said Feb. 22.
The voting is being watched closely to see if oil-producing Ecuador will become the latest leftist-run country in Latin America to shift to the right.
It could also determine the immediate fate of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has been holed up in Ecuador’s embassy in London since 2012 to avoid going to Sweden to face rape charges.
In voting on Feb. 19, ruling party leftist candidate Lenin Moreno finished first but fell short of the margin needed to avoid a run-off.
He will face a run-off on April 2 against his conservative rival Guillermo Lasso.
With 99.5 percent of the votes counted, Moreno, a former vice president under President Rafael Correa, garnered 39.3 percent of the votes, against 28.1 percent for Lasso, a former banker, the National Electoral Council said.
Under Ecuadoran law, in the first round the winner needs at least 40 percent of the votes and a margin of victory of at least 10 percentage points to avoid a run-off.
Opinion polls and analysts suggest Moreno faces a tough challenge in the second round since conservative voters from other parties are likely to rally behind Lasso.
“Any party could beat the governing one in the second round because there is major resistance to and rejection of the government,” said political scientist Paolo Moncagatta of Quito’s San Francisco University before the Feb. 19 vote.
Correa however remained defiant that his side could win and extend leftist rule after his decade in power.
“Everything indicates that we will win in the second round,” he said.
Lasso alleged fraud in the vote count, but the electoral council denied the accusation.