Right-wing opposition candidate Guillermo Lasso alleged fraud Sunday in Ecuador’s presidential runoff election, vowing to contest results that had his rival Lenin Moreno extending a decade of socialist rule. Moreno, the designated heir to President Rafael Correa’s “21st-century socialism,” had 51.07 percent of the vote to 48.93 percent for ex-banker Lasso, with 94.2 percent of districts reporting, said the National Electoral Council. Lasso said his campaign had evidence of an attempt to rig the results. “We are going to defend the will of the Ecuadoran people in the face of an attempted fraud that aims to install what would be an illegitimate government,” he said, setting up what could be a long and ugly fight.
The election is being closely watched as a barometer of the political climate in Latin America, where more than a decade of leftist dominance has been waning. It may also decide the fate of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has been holed up in Ecuador’s London embassy since 2012.
Both candidates claimed victory on the basis of conflicting exit polls. “We will continue this process that has changed Ecuadorans’ lives, especially for the poorest citizens,” Moreno, a wheelchair user paralyzed in a 1998 carjacking, triumphantly told supporters, before launching into an exuberant victory party at which he regaled the crowd with his singing. “Starting today, Ecuador has a president who is going to promote national unity,” countered Lasso in a speech to his own supporters.
Angry protests followed the first-round vote on February 19, when Moreno came close to winning outright and Lasso supporters cried fraud.