Ecuador presidential poll ends in victory for Guillermo Lasso

Quito, April 12 2021: With over 93% votes counted and a lead of 5% over socialist opponent Anres Arauz who has conceded, Guillermo Lasso, a former banker has won Ecuador’s presidential election.

Conservative Lasso declared himself president-elect and accepted the “challenge” of changing Ecuador’s “destiny” and lead it to “economic prosperity”. Lasso’s opponent, economist Arauz, who is best known as the protege of former president Rafael Correa, was magnanimous despite earlier claiming victory following a tight exit poll.

In Ecuador, a country bitterly divided along political lines, voting is obligatory, and opinion polls had the rivals neck and neck heading into the election for oil-rich Ecuador’s registered voters to pick a successor to the deeply unpopular Lenin Moreno. The campaign in the South American country had been dominated by an economic crisis aggravated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Arauz, 36, from the Union of Hope coalition, is virtually unknown but topped February’s first round of voting on the back of support from his mentor, Correa, who led the country from 2007-2017.  Lasso, 65, from the Creating opportunities movement, is a third-time presidential candidate having finished second twice before

Correa would have been Arauz’s running mate but after being convicted for corruption, he lives in exile in Belgium, where his wife was born, avoiding his prison sentence. But his influence on Ecuadoran politics remains strong.

Lasso will take over from beleaguered Moreno on May 24 and will immediately face an economic crisis exasperated by a 7.8 percent contraction in GDP in 2020.  At the same time, the country has been hard-hit by the pandemic, with more than 340,000 coronavirus infections and more than 17,000 deaths. Lasso also faces a tough job during his four-year term with Arauz’s leftist coalition the largest party in opposition.

The opposition spot was scraped by Lasso into the runoff by less than half a percentage point ahead of indigenous candidate Yaku Perez, who contested the result and claimed to have been the victim of fraud. Socialist Perez, and his party Pachakutik refused to back either candidate in the second round and promoted blank votes.

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