People hold signs reading 'No to fraud' and '[Election] Run-off now' as they protest near the electoral council in Guayaquil, Ecuador, February 20, 2017.
People hold signs reading 'No to fraud' and '[Election] Run-off now' as they protest near the electoral council in Guayaquil, Ecuador, February 20, 2017.

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.

Moreno needed 40 percent of valid votes and a ten percentage-point difference over his nearest rival to win outright. He was the clear leader of Sunday's election, gaining 39.21 percent of valid votes versus 28.34 percent for Lasso, with 95.3 percent of votes counted.

The electoral body was waiting for all ballots to be counted before officially proclaiming a second round.

"No, it's not possible," electoral council president Juan Pablo Pozo told reporters when asked if a runoff could be avoided. "But we have to wait for official results to be 100 percent."

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

Lasso has campaigned on a platform to revive the economy, which is dependent on exports of oil, flowers and shrimp, by slashing taxes, fostering foreign investment and creating a million jobs in four years.

He has also vowed to remove Wikileaks founder Julian Assange from the Ecuadorean embassy in London and denounce Venezuela's Socialist government.

Lasso's dark past

Many Ecuadoreans link Lasso with the 1999 banking crisis when hundreds of thousands lost their savings and many migrated to Spain or the United States.

"We don't want a corrupt banker as president," said Moreno supporter Tatiana Manosalvas, a 45-year-old taxi driver.

"We can't return to our history of instability when the richest stole our money with impunity."

Lasso has defended himself by saying the bank he ran for almost 20 years, Banco de Guayaquil, was solid and survived the meltdown. He says it is Ecuador's leftist government that is hiding corruption behind a false rhetoric of helping the poor.

Bribery scandals at state oil company Petroecuador and Brazilian conglomerate Odebrecht have rocked the governing party.

A fugitive former oil minister regularly accuses Moreno's running mate Jorge Glas, the former head of Strategic Sectors, of being "the ringleader" of a graft operation at Petroecuador. Glas has denied the accusations.

And after a decade of governance by mercurial president Rafael Correa, many in the country of 16 million say they are also tired of his confrontational style and alliances with Cuba and Venezuela.

"This has to end, it's ended in Argentina, now it will end in Ecuador, and next up is Venezuela," said student Carlos Vallarino, 24, who voted for Lasso.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies