Ecuadoreans have voted for a new leader, and exit polls indicated socialist President Rafael Correa’s hand-picked successor was close to the threshold needed to win outright and avoid a runoff against his nearest rival. As balloting ended, a survey released by pollster Cedatos yesterday said ruling party candidate Lenin Moreno had just over 39 per cent of the votes, compared to 30.5 per cent for former banker Guillermo Lasso, the closest contender among seven opposition candidates.
A poll by Opinion Publica broadcast on state TV said Moreno had nearly 43 per cent to Lasso’s 28 per cent. Both surveys had a margin of error of two percentage points. To avoid an April runoff, Moreno needed to win a majority of the votes, or get 40 per cent while holding a 10-point lead over his nearest rival.
Moreno was quick to declare himself the virtual winner when the exit polls were published, while Lasso said the surveys indicated a second round of balloting would be needed. Preliminary results were expected last night. “This revolution nobody can stop,” a triumphant Moreno told supporters in Quito. Standing next to Correa, who he thanked profusely, Moreno called on Lasso to recognise defeat.
The opposition candidate showed no sign of throwing in the towel.
You May Also Like To Watch This:
“We have 45,000 volunteers who are watching over the count to confirm what we already know: that there will be a runoff in Ecuador,” Lasso told cheering supporters in Guayaquil. Pre-election polls had suggested that no candidate was likely to get enough votes to win the first round. Expected to decide the race were a third of voters who until recently declared themselves undecided amid low-energy campaigning as the charismatic Correa prepares to retire from politics.
The outcome was being watched closely in Latin America, where conservative leaders in Argentina, Brazil and Peru have assumed power in the past 18 months after the end of a commodities boom that boosted leftists like Correa.
Outside the region, much of the interest in the election focused on what the outcome might mean for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has been staying at the Ecuadorean Embassy in London. Moreno has indicated he would back Assange’s continued stay, while Lasso vowed to evict the Australian activist within 30 days of taking office.