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Ecuador's runoff both candidates claim victory

Leftist celebrate win in Ecuador election, rival cries foul and ask for recount

Petroleumworld 04 03 2017

Ecuador's presidential election was headed to a close finish, with both candidates claiming victory on Sunday evening, raising the prospect of a political crisis in the Andean nation and OPEC smallest member.

With more than 94.1 percent of the votes counted, ruling coalition Lenin Moreno was leading with 51.1 percent of the votes to 48.9 percent of conservative candidate Guillermo Lasso, according to the National Electoral Council. Earlier in the evening, exit polls by independent pollster Cedatos showed Lasso had the lead over former vice president Moreno.

Moreno told supporters at a rally in his Alianza Party headquarters in Quito that he had won the elections even if results were not final, and urged his supporters to march to the headquarters of the electoral council. During a televised speech, Lasso also declared victory.

"We will continue to protest in the streets until each vote is counted individually" Enrique Herreria, lawyer and Lasso aide said during a TV interview with Ecuavisa.

The Andean country's 12.8 million voters are choosing a successor to self-declared socialist Rafael Correa at the end of a weekend of political unrest and protests in Venezuela and Paraguay. Avenues close to the headquarters of the National Electoral Council in Quito were closed to traffic since midday Friday amid an increase in security around the compound. Later on Sunday police used tear gas to disperse crowds at the electoral council headquarters in the city of Guayaquil, according to local TV stations.

Tensions mount

Tensions escalated following the first-round vote on Feb. 19 when it took the electoral council three days to declare a runoff between Moreno and Lasso would take place. On Tuesday, Lasso, his family, and supporters were pelted with vuvuzelas and other objects after watching the World Cup qualifier match between Ecuador and Colombia by people he later called "foreign mercenaries" hired by the government.

Moreno has pledged to boost public spending on housing, tripling a monthly benefit to poor families to $150, and to build 40 new technical universities. Meanwhile, Lasso has focused on restoring freedom of speech and slashing taxes by $3 billion annually to boost job creation and foreign investment, which was largely absent from Ecuador in the past decade.

Both candidates also clashed on their views regarding the status of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who has taken refuge on Ecuador's embassy in London since June 2012. While Moreno has said Assange can stay, Lasso said he would ask him to leave within 30 days of his inauguration.

Concerns over protracted election results weighed on Ecuador's debt last week, with the country's sovereign bonds due in 2022 extending a three-day slump on Friday ahead of the vote. The bonds dropped 0.2 percent to 107.11 cents on the dollar, the lowest level since mid-December, while the yield climbed to 8.94 percent. Ecuador's debt as a percentage of gross domestic product reached 39.6 percent at year-end 2016, twice the level at the end of 2010, according to the Finance Ministry data.

Story by Stephan Kueffner from Bloomberg

bloomberg.com 04 02 2017

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