Ecuador election: Tension rises over delayed result

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Supporters of Ecuador's presidential candidates Yaku Perez and Guillermo Lasso gather outside the Electoral National Council (CNE) in Quito, Ecuador, February 12, 2021Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
A protest outside the electoral council offices in Quito

Eleven days after the first round of the presidential election was held in Ecuador, it is still not clear who will join first-placed candidate Andrés Arauz in the second round.

The difference between the second and third-placed candidates was so close that they both demanded a recount.

However, that recount was halted after the electoral council could not agree on whether to grant the request.

The second round is scheduled for 11 April.

Who's in the running?

With 32.71% of the votes, left-wing economist Andrés Arauz has already secured his place in the second round. The 36-year-old has the support of former President Rafael Correa, who governed Ecuador from 2007 to 2017.

Image source, EPA
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Andrés Arauz has made it through to the run-off on 11 April

Mr Correa did not stand in this election as he was sentenced in absentia for corruption and is banned from holding political office for 25 years but he continues to wield a lot of influence in his home country.

Mr Arauz has said that if he is elected he would make Mr Correa "his most trusted adviser".

Currently in second place is conservative banker Guillermo Lasso with 19.74% of the votes. This is Mr Lasso's third run for the presidency and the 65-year-old has campaigned on a promise to increase oil revenue and get spending under control.

Close behind Mr Lasso, is indigenous activist Yaku Pérez, with 19.38% of the votes. Mr Pérez proposes banning mining activity in Ecuador's highlands and setting limits on new concessions for oil production.

All candidates focused in their campaigns on how to kick-start the economy and help workers and the hundreds of thousands who have lost their jobs during the coronavirus pandemic.

Media caption,

Ecuadorean journalist Blanca Moncada was on the front line of the Covid-19 crisis in her home town of Guayaquil

Why the delay?

The race between Mr Pérez and Mr Lasso for the second run-off spot was extremely close - just 33,000 votes separated them.

The two men met on Monday and agreed they both wanted a recount.

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Guillermo Lasso is currently ahead of Yaku Pérez, but only narrowly

Mr Pérez filed the official request with Mr Lasso's backing, demanding that there be a recount of 50% of the votes in all of Ecuador's provinces as well as 100% of the votes in Guayas, the country's most populous province.

On Tuesday, the five-member electoral council failed to agree - with two in favour of a recount, one opposed, one abstaining and one member absent.

The head of the electoral council, Diana Atamaint, later wrote on Twitter that the electoral council member who had been absent during the vote "had left the room without any explanation", meaning that there were neither enough votes for or against the recount. As a result, the recount was put on hold.

What's the reaction been?

Mr Pérez said Ecuadoreans had been "left in limbo" by the electoral council and called on his supporters to join a cross-country protest march to Quito. It left the southern city of Loja on Wednesday and is expected to arrive in the capital next Tuesday.

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Yaku Pérez has called on his supporters to march on Quito

"They are not going to defeat us, they are not going to annihilate us, the resistance continues," Mr Pérez said.

The regional Organization of American States has expressed its concern at the delays and has called on the electoral council to "provide guarantees of certainty and transparency".

Outgoing President Lenín Moreno is due to stand down on 24 May.

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