Left-wing economist Andres Arauz claimed “a resounding victory” when initial polls predicted he would face right-wing ex-banker Guillermo Lasso in a run-off after polls closed Sunday in Ecuador’s general election.
The poll was damaged by long lines of people waiting to vote because coronavirus restrictions caused chaos.
Two initial polls showed that Arauz had topped the poll with 34.9 to 36.2 percent before Lasso 21 to 21.7 percent.
To win instantly, a candidate needs 50 percent plus one vote or 40 percent and a 10-point lead over the nearest rival.
Arauz, 35, is a protégé of former President Rafael Correa, who currently lives in Belgium, where his wife was born, and is avoiding a conviction for corruption.
“Resounding victory in all regions of our beautiful country. Our victory is 2 to 1 ahead of the banker,” Arauz wrote on Twitter, although he urged supporters to wait for “official results before celebrating” his success.
The first results will be published on Sunday evening.
The vote took place against the backdrop of economic problems exacerbated by a second, deadly wave of coronavirus pandemics that have swept Latin America.
Many voters arrived face masks in a nation where the pandemic has claimed 15,000 lives and infected more than 257,000.
The country’s 13.1 million voters elected a successor to the unpopular Socialist President Lenin Moreno and the 137 members of the Unicameral Congress.
Preliminary surveys show that domestic rights campaign Yaku Perez finished in third place with 16.7 to 18 percent in an overcrowded area with 16 candidates, including Ximena Pena, the only woman.
Strict health precautions seemed to slow down the vote and may have deterred some from voting when long lines stretched outside polling stations.
Election official Enrique Pita told local media that instructions were given by the National Electoral Council’s authorities to ease the restrictions “to allow the lines to continue.”
Arauz represents the Union of Hope (UNES) coalition of left-wing parties, while businessman Lasso, 65, comes from CREO’s right-wing movement.
Arauz’s mentor Correa, a two-time president, remains a strong political force in the country despite the transplant belief that lowered his hopes of campaigning to become his protector’s deputy.
Arauz has promised to return the country to a socialist path after a four-year, austerity-driven break under Moreno.
Arauz has promised to spend $ 1,000 to one million families during his first month in office, as well as a special tax on the rich.
In his third presidential race, advocate Lasso in the free market has said he would create one million jobs in a year.
He would probably stick to the austerity policy adopted by Moreno, which has had to restrain spending in exchange for International Monetary Fund loans to strengthen the oil-producing country’s faltering dollar-based economy.
Ecuador is stuck in debt when the gains from an oil boom during the Correa presidency dried up during Moreno when the price of crude oil crashed.
The national debt increased from 26 percent of GDP to 44 percent during Moreno’s term.
The coronavirus epidemic has piled up pressure, with about $ 6.4 billion in losses directly attributable to the health crisis, according to government data.
Ecuador’s economy is expected to decline by 8.9 percent by 2020, while unemployment reached 8.6 percent in September last year – more than doubling in nine months.
Moreno, his popularity at a minimum price of seven percent, did not seek re-election.
The second round is tentatively scheduled for April 11.