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Presidential Race Is Tight in Ecuador -- WSJ

3 Apr 2017 6:32 am
By Ryan Dube 

QUITO, Ecuador -- Ruling-party candidate Lenin Moreno had a slight lead over his conservative opponent in a tight election to succeed President Rafael Correa, according to election results with most of the votes counted.

With 95% of the votes counted late Sunday, Mr. Moreno had 51.11% support, compared with 48.89% for Guillermo Lasso, the national electoral council said on its website. It has yet to officially announce a winner.

A quick count by Participacion Ciudadana, a Quito-based nongovernment organization that promotes democracy, said there was a technical tie between the candidates.

Tensions mounted late Sunday as both candidates declared victory following a contentious campaign that saw Mr. Lasso hit with rocks while leaving a soccer match and the opposition argue that the election of Mr. Moreno would push Ecuador toward a similar fate as crisis-ridden Venezuela.

Mr. Moreno, a 64-year-old former vice president who served with Mr. Correa, celebrated the results alongside the president and cheering supporters.

"We have won the election," he said. "This revolution will continue." Mr. Correa said Mr. Moreno's lead was irreversible.

Mr. Lasso, a 61-year-old ex-banker who promised to roll back taxes to boost economic growth, hasn't conceded, saying there was fraud and that Mr. Moreno's presidency would be illegitimate. He had claimed victory after three exit polls showed he won the race.

After official results showed he was trailing, he called on his supporters to peacefully defend their vote.

"They've crossed a line and that line that they've crossed is to try to abuse the popular will," he said in a speech. "You aren't going to allow it, and neither are we."

Televised images later showed Mr. Lasso's supporters chanting "no to fraud" outside the national electoral council's office in the coastal city of Guayaquil. Hundreds of his supporters broke through barricades surrounding the council's office in Quito to protest the results while waving Ecuadorean flags.

Cesar Monge, president of Mr. Lasso's CREO coalition, called on the council to hold off on announcing the winner, saying they found irregularities in some ballots.

"What we'll do in the coming hours is try to get to the bottom of all of this to really know what happened in the election," he said.

The opposition's calls for a recount are unlikely to succeed, said Sebastian Hurtado, president of Profitas, a Quito-based political-risk consulting firm.

"The government has the upper hand," he said. "They are going to try to wrap this up as quickly as possible."

If confirmed, Mr. Moreno's victory would extend the leftist government's decadelong hold on power, bucking a trend in Latin America that has seen the region's populist left lose power amid slower economic growth.

Political analysts had said Mr. Correa, who was legally barred from running for re-election, boosted Mr. Moreno's candidacy in the final days of the campaign by inaugurating several public-works projects, including hospitals and schools.

Write to Ryan Dube at ryan.dube@dowjones.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

April 03, 2017 02:32 ET (06:32 GMT)

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