Leftist candidate Lenín Moreno won a narrow victory in Ecuador’s most recent presidential race over his opponent Guillermo Lasso. Moreno, the former vice president of Rafael Correa (current president of Ecuador), overall led 51 percent over Lasso’s 49 percent. Lasso’s supporters insist the election process was fraudulent on multiple levels to ensure the victory of Moreno. Clashes broke out in several cities including the capital Quito, where protestors on the streets demanded another recount.
Prior to his victory, Moreno did not seal his win in the first round, only receiving roughly 40 percent of the vote. In order to win, a candidate must either win 50 percent of the vote or take 40 percent of the vote and be at least 10 percent ahead of the runner up.
This election cycle has marked deep divisions in Ecuador’s society. Lenín Moreno represents the leftist current that swept over South America within the last decade. Lasso, on the other hand, offered a message of change and tapped into voters’ frustrations about the country’s declining economy and the government’s corruption. Lasso also offered to open Ecuador’s economy to the free market. In South America, a new political wave has surged, in which free market candidates have won recent elections in countries such as Argentina and Peru. Moreno’s victory in a way defies Latin America’s shift to right.
The election was subject to worldwide attention especially due to the power Ecuador’s new President would have on the future of the founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange. Assange took refuge at Ecuador’s embassy in London in 2012. The opposing candidate, Lasso, said he would evict Assange from the embassy within 30 days. Moreno has said he will let Assange stay. Julian Assange is wanted by Swedish authorities and possibly will face extradition to the US on espionage charges.
Ecuador’s economic situation has worsened and there are serious questions about the government corruption. The voters that stuck with the leftist Moreno recognized the government’s high investment in education, health care, and infrastructure in recent years by leftist candidates. The narrow results only suggest that Moreno would face fierce challenges in governing in an increasingly volatile and divided country.