Americas

Ecuador presidential runoff looks likely; Correa remains defiant

Lenin Moreno, presidential candidate for the ruling party Alliance PAIS, center, speaks during a news conference where he said, "no to violence" as Ecuadoreans wait for results of the presidential race, in Quito, Ecuador, on Monday.
Lenin Moreno, presidential candidate for the ruling party Alliance PAIS, center, speaks during a news conference where he said, "no to violence" as Ecuadoreans wait for results of the presidential race, in Quito, Ecuador, on Monday. AP

Ecuador’s two leading presidential contenders are almost certainly heading toward an April 2 runoff, as ruling party candidate Lenín Moreno seems to have failed to garner the 40 percent of the vote he needed to win outright.

With 96 percent of the vote counted, the National Electoral Council (CNE) suggested Tuesday that Moreno’s lead would not increase enough to break through that key threshold. Even so, it said it was not willing to call the race until 100 percent of the ballots were counted.

And President Rafael Correa, in a series of tweets, said opposition candidate Guillermo Lasso with the CREO party was celebrating prematurely.

“Nothing is written,” he said. “Let’s count the very last vote, and if there’s a second round we’ll beat them again.”

With all but 4 percent of the vote counted, Moreno had 39.2 percent versus Lasso’s 28.3 percent. Former congresswoman Cynthia Viteri and former Quito Mayor Paco Moncayo had 16.2 percent and 6.8 percent respectively.

Read More: Will a ‘Miami Scandal’ move the needle in Ecuador’s elections?

The Lasso-Moreno match-up is bound to be heated. Moreno, 63, will enter the race with the full backing of the socialist Alianza País party and a combative Correa, who remains a popular figure after 10 years in power.

Lasso, for his part, will be riding a wave of dissatisfaction as he promises more market-friendly reforms. Already a number of opposition candidates in the eight-way race, including Viteri, have thrown their support behind him.

U.S. votes with Moreno

In the United States, where more than 105,000 Ecuadorians voted, Moreno had 38 percent of the vote versus Lasso’s 29 percent and Viteri’s 18 percent.

The ruling party has traditionally done well among emigrants. And Lasso is handicapped by the fact that he was in the economic cabinet of former President Jamil Mahuad (1998-2000) during a brutal economic and banking crisis that forced millions to flee the Andean nation to find work.

Read More: Ruling party candidate wins election but doubts surround runoff

“Today, we have to push for the greatest of unity in Ecuador,” Lasso wrote on Twitter. “The unity of the 61 percent of Ecuadorians who don’t want more of the same.”

Moreno is also hoping to woo votes from the opposition, including followers of Moncayo — who shares some of his leftist ideals.

“My hand is extended to those who want to keep moving forward to create a great country that is fair...and unified — [a country] of brothers in peace,” Moreno wrote.

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