Ecuador’s outgoing president urges quick and accurate vote count

Uncertainty persists days after presidential election over second candidate who will participate in an April runoff.

Election officials count ballots after polls closed during the presidential election, in Quito, Ecuador on February 7 [Santiago Arcos/Reuters]

The outgoing president of Ecuador has urged the country’s National Electoral Council (CNE) to deliver accurate election results quickly, as uncertainty persists over the second candidate who will participate in an April runoff.

Lenin Moreno, who did not seek re-election in the February 7 contest, said on Wednesday that “the country needs the results, but also the total confidence in those results”.

The CNE is still counting after Sunday’s election, which saw 16 candidates vying for the post and took place amid widespread discontent over Ecuador’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and an economic crisis.

Leftist economist Andres Arauz, a protege of former President Rafael Correa, secured 32.44 percent of the votes and will advance to the presidential run-off, but the runner-up remains in dispute.

Indigenous environmental activist Yaku Perez is narrowly clinging onto second place with 19.65 percent of the vote, ahead of right-wing former banker Guillermo Lasso with 19.60 percent. Just over three percent of votes still need to be counted.

Perez’s supporters have been protesting outside the CNE offices since Sunday, after he claimed – without providing evidence – that potential “fraud” was taking place.

On Wednesday, Moreno called on the CNE to “respond to every request for revision” of votes subject to inconsistencies and to do so with “the utmost transparency”.

CNE head Diana Atamaint said the body was “realising a transparent process”.

The Organization of American States (OAS), which sent election observers to Ecuador to monitor the vote, on Monday called on Ecuadorians “to calmly await the results”.

It also urged “the political actors to behave responsibly and the National Electoral Council to provide guarantees of transparency, certainty and legal security to all those involved in the process”.

That same day, US State Department spokesman Ned Price also urged people to “exercise patience” until all the ballots are tallied “and work to resolve conflicts in a peaceful and transparent manner and in accordance with Ecuador’s constitution and established norms and processes”.

Perez represents Pachakutik, the party of Ecuador’s Indigenous movement and is known for his opposition to mining and support for greater environmental protections.

For his part, Lasso has promised to cut taxes and create one million jobs by attracting international investment, particularly in oil and mining.

Arauz has promised to return to Correa’s socialist policies and promised to give $1,000 to one million Ecuadorian families who have suffered during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies