Exit polls from Sunday’s presidential election in Ecuador put the ruling party’s Lenin Moreno ahead of the closest contender among seven opposition candidates, although it was unclear whether he had enough votes to avoid an April runoff.
With more than 80 percent of polling stations reporting early Monday, Moreno had almost 39 percent of the votes, compared to just under 29 percent for conservative Guillermo Lasso, a former banker.
To avoid a runoff, Moreno needs 40 percent of valid votes and a 10-point lead over Lasso.
An exit poll by Cedatos pollster estimated Moreno received some 39.4 percent of valid votes versus about 30.5 percent for Lasso. Its margin of error was plus or minus 2 percentage points.
A separate OPECUADOR poll published by state media showed Moreno with 42.9 percent of valid votes, versus 27.7 percent for Lasso.
Even before the first vote results, Moreno was quick to declare himself the winner based on inconclusive exit polls and called on Lasso to recognize defeat. He softened his tone, however, while addressing supporters late in the night.
An ally of the outgoing leftist President Rafael Correa, Moreno had been leading in opinion polls and promised to continue the current president’s programs “on tax-and-spend social policies.”
Lasso has vowed to cut spending and taxes while creating one million jobs. Lasso had been second in pre-election polls.
The oil-rich country’s economy shrank by 1.7 percent in 2016 due to falling oil prices.
The result of the election could also change the future of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange who has been living in Ecuador’s embassy in London for five years, fighting extradition to Sweden on rape charges. Assange says the charges are a ruse to invented by the United States as part of an effort to try him on espionage charges.
One campaign promise from the two leading conservative candidates was to evict Assange from Ecuador’s London embassy where he has taken refuge out of fear of extradition to the United States.