Ecuador’s presidential race heads to runoff

Ecuador’s presidential elections are heading to a runoff scheduled for April 16 after none of the record 16 candidates in the fray could secure a required 40 per cent majority, the National Electoral Council (CNE) said.

The CNE said on Monday that the runoff will take place between progressive candidate Andres Arauz and his closest rival, who is yet to be determined.

With some 97.56 per cent of the ballots cast on Sunday tabulated, the results showed that Arauz, candidate for the Union for Hope Alliance, was the frontrunner, with 32.2 per cent of the votes.

The second-placed candidate is yet to be declared, with indigenous activist Yaku Perez and former banker and three-time presidential candidate Guillermo Lasso receiving 19.8 per cent and 19.6 per cent of the votes, respectively.

Ecuadorian electoral authorities said they expect to make that announcement once 100 per cent of the ballots have been tallied.

Perez and Lasso agreed to wait for the official results before declaring victory, though both have said they expect to be in the runoff.

To win in the first round, a candidate must get at least 40 per cent of the votes with a 10-point lead over the runner-up.

But with a record 16 candidates competing to succeed President Lenin Moreno, most observers had expected a runoff.

The surprise outcome of Sunday’s elections was the relatively strong showing of political unknown Xavier Hervas, a businessman and candidate of the Democratic Left Party, who garnered 16.02 per cent of the votes.

Another five candidates obtained between 1 per cent and 3 per cent of the votes, among them Ximena Pena, the only woman in the race and the candidate of the ruling PAIS Alliance.

Seven candidates received less than 1 per cent of the votes.

On Sunday evening, Perez began a vigil of the vote counting process at the CNE.

“Tonight if necessary we will sleep outside the CNE to ensure that Ecuadorians’ decision is respected. The people gave us their support and the official results have more than demonstrated that,” Perez said on Twitter.

Lasso also addressed his supporters, calling on them to remain calm and await the official outcome, adding: “I am certain that we will be in the runoff… We respect the law and the law in this case implies recognising the results when 100 per cent of the ballots have been counted.”

Ecuador is the first country in Latin America to hold elections this in the midst of a pandemic.

A total of 13,099,150 Ecuadorians, including 410,239 living abroad, were eligible to vote in the elections.

In Ecuador, voting is mandatory for citizens between 18 to 65-years-old.