Amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, people across Ecuador voted in the general elections to bring in a new government and renew the National Assembly (Congress).
Voting started on Sunday after an inauguration ceremony at the National Electoral Council (CNE) in Quito, with the presence of Vice President Maria Alejandra Munoz representing President Lenin Moreno, reports Xinhua news agency.
A total of 13,099,150 Ecuadorians, including 410,239 living abroad, were eligible to vote in the elections. There were 38,808 polling stations.
Ecuadorians had to choose from a record 16 pairs of presidential and vice-presidential candidates, with 137 seats in the National Assembly and five seats in Parliament also up for grabs.
Progressive candidate Andres Arauz, backed by former President Rafael Correa; former banker and conservative candidate Guillermo Lasso, who is participating for the third time; and indigenous leader Yaku Perez are the front-runners in the presidential election.
To win the first round, a candidate must get at least 40 per cent of the vote with a 10-point lead over the second candidate.
Ecuador is the first country in Latin America to hold elections this in the midst of a pandemic.
At the inauguration ceremony, CNE President Diana Atamaint also thanked the participation of the 260 international observers and the more than 2,400 national observers who monitored the elections.
At the ceremony, Vice President Munoz affirmed that these elections are “crucial” since they are taking place in a different context, “because we have not experienced a pandemic like the current one and the consequences that not all Ecuadorians are included in the short-, medium-, and long-term solutions could be dire”.
Faced with the challenge of guaranteeing voter attendance, the CNE implemented bio-safety protocols to reduce the risk of contagion, with elections and health measures overseen by the 85,000 members of the armed forces and police.
In Ecuador, voting is mandatory for citizens between 18 to 65-years-old.