Partial results show Ecuador leftist ahead, runoff unclear

Lenin Moreno, candidate of the ruling PAIS Alliance Party, gestures at the Hotel Colon during the presidential election in Quito, Ecuador February 19, 2017.

Partial official results put ruling party leftist Lenin Moreno clearly ahead in Sunday’s presidential election, although it was unclear whether he had enough votes to avoid an April runoff against conservative ex-banker Guillermo Lasso.

Moreno, a disabled former vice president, needs 40 percent of valid votes and a 10-percentage-point difference with his nearest rival to win outright and extend a decade of left-wing rule in the Andean country.

He had 38.26 percent of votes versus 29.86 percent for Lasso, according to the electoral council with 51.8 percent of ballots counted.

Moreno, who lost the use of his legs two decades ago after being shot during a robbery, has a more conciliatory style than pugnacious President Rafael Correa and has promised benefits for the disabled, single mothers and the elderly.

“Nothing and no one can stop this revolution,” said Moreno, flanked by Correa, as the first exit polls came out.

“We’ve won these elections fair and square.”

Cheering supporters in Quito waved Ecuadorean flags as well as green ones proclaiming “Lenin” next to Moreno’s face.

But Lasso expressed confidence he would make it to a second round. “We will present ourselves to the Ecuadorean people once again,” he said in his hometown of Guayaquil near the Pacific Coast.

Lasso has campaigned on a platform to revive the economy – which is dependent on exports of oil, flowers and shrimp – by slashing taxes, fostering foreign investment and creating 1 million jobs in four years.

Should there be a second round, Ecuador’s fragmented opposition is expected to coalesce around Lasso amid anger over an economic downturn and corruption scandals.

With seven opposition candidates in the first round, the opposition hurt its chances of ending Country Alliance’s run.

Argentina, Brazil, and Peru have moved toward the right recently as a commodities boom ended and weakened a leftist bloc in the region rich in oil, metals and soy.

Correa, one of the key figures in Latin America’s leftist axis for years, has brought stability to the politically turbulent country but has aggravated many with his confrontational style. He plans to move to Belgium with his Belgian wife after leaving office.