Ecuador Presidential Vote to Go to Second Round Runoff in April

  • Moreno, Correa’s chosen successor, fails to gain outright win
  • Voters to choose between continuity and economic reform

Ecuador faces a polarizing runoff election after electoral authorities acknowledged that Lenin Moreno, the candidate of the incumbent Alianza Pais movement, fell short of the votes necessary to capture the presidency in Sunday’s first round.

Juan Pablo Pozo, president of the National Electoral Council, told reporters at a news conference in Quito that with 95 percent of the valid votes counted, it’s mathematically impossible for the result to change. "The trend is established," Pozo said, implying a runoff between the two top candidates, Moreno and conservative career banker Guillermo Lasso.

In a research note, Eurasia Group estimated that Lasso would likely emerge as the winner in the runoff, setting a stage for a more business-friendly administration after President Rafael Correa, under whom Moreno served as vice president 2007 to 2013, departs on May 24.

Cynthia Viteri, the conservative legislator who came in third place, called on her voters to support Lasso. Felipe Burbano, political scientist at FLACSO University in Quito, however said a Lasso victory is not a foregone conclusion. "It will be the mother of all political battles now," he said in a telephone interview. "In a runoff, the deck of cards gets completely reshuffled."

In the last runoff election in 2006, Correa emerged victorious, and embarked on an oil-fueled public spending spree that helped cement an unprecedented decade in office.

Moreno, popular as a vice president concerned with social issues, failed to captivate the electorate like Correa did. Voters in polls said they were worried about the economic recession and jobs, as well as angry about corruption. Moreno promised to extend social benefits, including tripling a cash transfer to poor households to $150 a month and "housing for all."

For his part, Lasso has promised to create one million jobs by slashing $3 billion in taxes and attracting $2.5 billion in foreign direct investment annually.