QUITO -- President Rafael Correa crushed the opposition Sunday, avoiding a runoff and winning the right to lead this Andean nation through 2017.
Correa won 56.9 percent of the vote versus his nearest rival, former banker Guillermo Lasso, who won 23.6 percent, according to preliminary results released by the National Election Council.
Correa said the commanding victory was a clear endorsement of his socialist policies that have been the backbone of his “Citizens’ Revolution.”
“You’ve given us the ability to change this country once and for all,” Correa told cheering supporters outside the presidential palace. “Nothing and no one can stop this revolution.”
Correa, 49, was also expecting his Alianza País party to sweep the 137-seat congress and give him the leeway to deepen his reforms, which he told supporters need to be “radical, profound and fast.”
Correa has vowed to keep plowing the nation’s oil wealth into reducing poverty, building roads and universities, and pursuing alternative energy projects. But some of his proposals are more polemic. He also wants to push land reform and redistribution, and pass a media law that he said is designed to rectify the “corrupt press.”
Preliminary results early Monday, showed the ruling party with a strong lead in the legislative race.
Lasso, 57, of the CREO party, had run on a conciliatory platform of reducing political tensions, luring back foreign investors and hiring 20,000 more police to crack down on rising crime. But his pledges were overshadowed by the government’s ability to point to high-profile public works, including 5,000 miles of refurbished roads and a soon-to-be inaugurated international airport for the capital.
“If we voted for another president, we’d be starting from zero,” said Luis Aguayo, 56, a taxi driver. “Correa has done good work; all our other presidents never did anything.”
The opposition vote was divided among seven candidates, but Lasso was the only true contender. Lucio Gutiérrez, a former president who was deposed in 2005, came in third with 6.2percent of the vote, according to preliminary results.
Correa’s “every-man” style and ability to get things done have made him a hero to some in this Andean nation that had grown weary of corruption and political chaos. But Correa has also been accused of eroding democracy by co-opting the courts, using state resources to attack opponents and muzzling the press. He’s often compared to Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez and Bolivia’s Evo Morales.
In a news conference after the vote, Correa dedicated his victory to Chávez and wished his “dear friend” a quick recovery from cancer surgery.
Correa also said he was willing to work with “decent” political opponents, but he didn’t offer many olive branches. He called Ecuador’s and Latin America’s media some of the “worst in the world” and said he would not talk to opposition leaders he considers “corrupt, dishonest immoral and responsible for the sacking of the country.”
The tough talk plays well with many of his supporters, but others find it alarming. Francisco Orozco, 51, had supported Correa in the past but said he’s weary of the president’s aggressive tone. “Yes, he’s done things, but he is so angry all the time,” Orozco said, as he sat in a Quito park after having cast his vote. “You don’t have to be mean to get things done; you don’t have to be so arrogant.”