Leftist government candidate Lenin Moreno and ex-banker Guillermo Lasso will contest an April runoff to become the new Ecuadorian president, according to electoral officials.
With just over 95 percent of ballots counted from Sunday's presidential election, Moreno was the clear leader with 39.21 percent of the vote, according to the National Electoral Council.
That was just short of the 40 percent needed to avoid a runoff on April 2 against his conservative rival Guillermo Lasso, who was at 28.35 percent.
With the country anxiously awaiting the final results and the opposition pressuring for clarity, the electoral body on Tuesday said the results could not change, although it 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."
Opinion polls indicate Moreno may well lose a runoff in which supporters of other conservative opposition groups are likely to rally behind Lasso amid anger over an economic downturn in OPEC's smallest oil producer and a series of corruption scandals, potentially ending a decade of leftist rule in Ecuador.
Should Ecuador move to the right with a second-round victory for Lasso, it would follow on the heels of Argentina, Brazil and Peru which have all swerved away from the left.
Sunday's election was a test of the legacy of outgoing president and Moreno ally, Rafael Correa, who is an outspoken critic of the United States.
Correa is leaving office at the end of his term after 10 years in power.
Some Correa supporters see Lasso as an elitist who might slash social programmes, and the ruling Country Alliance remains popular with many of the country's rural poor.
"We're going to win the elections just like we won the first round," said Moreno in a press conference earlier on Tuesday.
|Presidential candidate Guillermo Lasso speaks to reporters on Monday [EPA]|
Source: News agencies