Ecuador's Lasso takes presidential runoff vote

QUITO (REUTERS) – Ecuadorean banker Guillermo Lasso has won Sunday’s (April 11) presidential runoff vote against leftist economist Andres Arauz, putting the country on track to maintain open market policies rather than return to socialism.

Mr Arauz conceded his defeat after receiving 47.5 per cent of the votes compared with Mr Lasso’s 52.5 per cent, with 97 per cent of poll statements processed, according to figures published by the National Electoral Council.

In a speech to his supporters, Mr Arauz said he would call Mr Lasso and offer his congratulations on the electoral victory.

The elections council is due to speak at 10pm local time (0300 GMT or 11am Monday Singapore time).

“It’s a day in which all Ecuadoreans have decided their future, they have used their vote to express the need for change and the desire for better days,” said Mr Lasso at a rally where jubilant supporters chanted “Lasso President!”

Mr Lasso’s victory will be welcomed by foreign investors who were unnerved by Mr Arauz’s promises of extensive social spending in the face of weak government finances and a struggling economy.

It also bucks a trend of leftist electoral victories in Latin America in nations including Argentina, Chile and Bolivia.

Mr Lasso will take office on May 24.

The oil-exporting nation’s economy was already weak due to low crude prices when the coronavirus outbreak started. The pandemic has pushed a third of the population of more than 17 million into poverty and left half a million people unemployed.

President Lenin Moreno, who did not seek re-election, imposed painful austerity measures as part of a US$6.5 billion (S$8.73 billion) financing agreement with the International Monetary Fund, but was unable to kick-start the economy.

The election council figures show 1.6 million null votes, likely the result of indigenous activist Yaku Perez calling on supporters to spoil their ballots.

Mr Perez ran in the first round vote in February and narrowly lost out to Mr Lasso for a slot in the runoff, which he attributed to electoral fraud despite not presenting evidence.

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