Ecuador Presidential Election Goes to Runoff Between Leftist, Ex-Banker

QUITO, Ecuador (Reuters) -

Ecuador’s presidential election will go to an April runoff between leftist government candidate Lenin Moreno and ex-banker Guillermo Lasso, the electoral body said on Tuesday, after a nail-biter first round over the weekend.

Mr. Moreno needed 40 percent of votes and a 10 percentage-point difference over his nearest rival to win outright.

He was the clear leader of Sunday’s vote, pocketing 39.21 percent of valid votes versus 28.34 percent for Mr. Lasso, with 95.3 percent of votes counted.

With the Andean country on tenterhooks and the opposition pressuring for clarity, the electoral body said the results could not change, although it was waiting for all ballots to be counted before officially proclaiming a second round.

“No, it’s not possible (that a second round is avoided), but we have to wait for official results to be 100 percent,” electoral council president Juan Pablo Pozo told reporters.

Ecuador’s fragmented opposition is expected to close ranks round Mr. Lasso in a runoff amid anger over an economic downturn in OPEC’s smallest oil producer and a series of corruption scandals, potentially ending a decade of leftist rule in Ecuador.

Should Ecuador move to the right with a second-round victory for Mr. Lasso, it would follow on the heels of Argentina, Brazil and Peru, which have all swerved away from the left as a China-led commodities boom ended.

Still, some disillusioned Correa supporters see Mr. Lasso as an elitist who might slash social programs, and the ruling Country Alliance remains popular with many of the country’s rural poor.

“We’re going to win the elections just like we won the first round,” said Mr. Moreno in a press conference earlier on Tuesday.