Moreno Takes Lead in Ecuador Election But Second Round Likely

  • Preliminary results show Moreno with 38.3%, Lasso with 29.9%
  • Runoff on April 2nd could favor conservative candidate Lasso

Ecuador’s ruling party candidate Lenin Moreno took an eight-point lead in the country’s presidential election over conservative candidate Guillermo Lasso, according to preliminary results published on Sunday evening, but still short of the threshold needed to avoid a second round runoff.

With 52 percent of the valid votes counted, Moreno had 38.3 percent of the ballots, while Lasso received 29.9 percent, the National Electoral Council said. The leader needs at least 40 percent of the vote with a 10-point margin to win in the first round. An April 2 runoff could favor Lasso as opponents of the government rally behind him.

“We have won the elections,” Moreno said at a rally outside Alianza Pais headquarters in Quito in reaction to an unofficial exit poll by Opinion Publica Ecuador, which showed 42.9 percent for Moreno and 27.7 percent for Lasso.

Ecuadoreans are voting to elect a successor to President Rafael Correa, who for the first time in more than a decade wasn’t on the ballot. After voting in Quito, Correa declared that Moreno would win without a runoff. Highly popular after spending more than $300 billion on social programs, infrastructure and expanding government’s role in South America’s seventh-biggest economy, he had to ramp up government debt to maintain spending after the price of oil, the OPEC member’s top export, plunged after 2014.

Moreno, Correa’s chosen successor and a former vice president, has pledged to expand benefits to the poor, including tripling a monthly cash transfer to low-income families to $150, free housing, higher pensions for seniors, and 40 new technical universities, despite an economic recession.

National Assembly

There were six other candidates on the ballot. Voters also chose the 137 members of Ecuador’s National Assembly, five members of the Andean Parliament, and decided whether to bar elected and professional public officials from owning assets in tax havens.

Voters from some remote Amazon jungle and Andean villages can take hours to reach voting precincts and return home. Proof of voting is required to carry out numerous bureaucratic procedures like car registration, opening a bank account, or even renting a bicycle. A ban on the sale and consumption of alcohol began Friday noon and runs through noon on Monday.

Several incidents were reported during the elections. Police Colonel Carlos Zarate, deputy director of the special operations unit, in a video distributed by newspaper La Hora, reported that previously marked ballots had been discovered in the provinces of Carchi, Cotopaxi, Manabi, and Tungurahua, without specifying how many.

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