Flawed poll records delay naming Ecuador presidential race’s runner-up

Supporters of Ecuadorean presidential candidate Guillermo Lasso gather before his closing campaign rally, ahead of the February 7 presidential vote, in Guayaquil, Ecuador February 4, 2021. REUTERS/Santiago Arcos

Election officials in Ecuador have had to review more than 1,000 poll records with irregularities, delaying the announcement of a runner-up who will compete in an April 11 presidential run-off, according to officials.

The second place in the general elections which took place on Sunday is being disputed between indigenous activist Yaku Perez and former banker Guillermo Lasso, one of whom will go up against front-runner Andres Arauz in the April election, reports Xinhua news agency.

According to the National Electoral Council (CNE), with 99.67 per cent of the ballots counted as of Wednesday afternoon, Perez secured 19.7 per cent of valid votes, while Lasso received 19.59 per cent, a difference of about 12,000 votes.

However, 3.53 per cent of the electoral records (1,415) have presented some irregularities, such as numerical inconsistencies, lack of signatures of voting station members, scanning failures or complaints from political organizations, and are still pending, according to the CNE.

In addition, another 0.33 per cent of the records (130) have yet to be processed, the Council added.

CNE President Diana Atamaint assured that the electoral body was acting “with absolute transparency” in the review and counting process.

Vote counting is proceeding amid some political tension as Perez, who claims alleged irregularities, has continued a vigil outside the CNE headquarters to purportedly protect his votes.

In support, the Pachakutik Plurinational Unity Movement that named him its candidate issued a statement, calling on supporters to mobilise to defend the votes.

“We are going to use all the necessary resources and means, legal and in fact within our reach, to enforce the popular will expressed at the polls,” Pachakutik said in the statement.

The Pachakutik Plurinational Unity Movement is a political arm of the powerful Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador.

To win in the first round, a candidate must get at least 40 per cent of the votes with a 10-point lead over the runner-up.

But with a record 16 candidates competing to succeed President Lenin Moreno, most observers had expected a runoff.

Ecuador is the first country in Latin America to hold elections this in the midst of a pandemic.

A total of 13,099,150 Ecuadorians, including 410,239 living abroad, were eligible to vote in the elections.

In Ecuador, voting is mandatory for citizens between 18 to 65-years-old.

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