Polls have closed in Ecuador after voters headed out in giant numbers to select a brand new president in an election held underneath the shadow of a extreme financial disaster and discontent over the dealing with of the coronavirus pandemic.
Sunday’s vote will see the South American nation’s 13.1 million voters select a successor to unpopular socialist President Lenin Moreno, in addition to elect lawmakers to fill 137 seats within the Nationwide Meeting.
Opinion polls present left-wing economist Andres Arauz and conservative Guillermo Lasso the clear frontrunners amongst 16 presidential candidates, with Indigenous rights campaigner Yaku Perez in a distant third place.
Specialists say it’s unlikely that any candidate will attain the 40 % assist and not less than a 10-point lead over their opponents that’s required for an outright win. This implies a runoff between the highest two challengers is prone to be held on April 11.
The elections council is anticipated to launch an official fast rely between 7pm and 8pm native time (00:00-01:00 GMT on Monday).
An exit ballot by native pollster Clima Social confirmed Arauz with 36.2 % of the vote in contrast with 21.7 % for Lasso and 16.7 % for Perez. A second ballot by Cedatos confirmed Arauz with 34.9 % of the vote, in contrast with 21.0 % for Lasso and 18.0 % for Perez.
Al Jazeera’s Alessandro Rampietti, reporting from neighbouring Colombia, mentioned if early exit polling numbers “are certainly appropriate or near appropriate, then we will certainly see a run-off subsequent April for these presidential elections, as anticipated in Ecuador”.
Nationwide Electoral Council President Diana Atamaint had earlier declared the beginning of election day in a ceremony within the capital, Quito, after polls opened at 7am (12:00 GMT). “At this time Ecuador wins and democracy wins,” she mentioned.
Voters arrived at polling stations sporting face masks as a precaution towards COVID-19 at a time when the nation is battling a resurgence of infections, which has aggravated Ecuador’s financial troubles. Up to now, the pandemic has claimed some 15,000 lives and contaminated greater than 257,000.
Ecuadorians waited in lengthy strains to solid their ballots, with delays induced partly by coronavirus-related limits on the variety of individuals allowed inside at one time.
“Voters are getting discouraged by the very lengthy strains,” mentioned Nationwide Electoral Council Vice President Enrique Pita throughout a televised replace on how the vote was continuing.
Moreno, who shouldn’t be looking for re-election, will finish his single time period in workplace drastically unpopular. His approval score has lengthy been hovering at about 7 %, down from 77 % in his first months in workplace.
The outgoing president was elected in 2017 because the successor to Rafael Correa, who raised public spending, lower ties with worldwide lending establishments and supported integration with different socialist nations within the area.
However shortly after he was elected, Moreno modified course and pursued extra business-friendly insurance policies, corresponding to slashing taxes for worldwide mining traders and securing loans from the Worldwide Financial Fund (IMF) and World Financial institution to fund Ecuador’s overseas debt and monetary deficit.
Arauz, a protege of Correa, has promised to make $1bn in direct money funds to households and to disavow the situations of a $6.5bn IMF financing bundle.
“I’m comfortable and inspired by the excessive voter turnout,” Arauz tweeted on Saturday afternoon. “It’s a day of celebration, of nationwide unity and of hope to take again the way forward for the nation.”
His principal rival, Lasso, has promised to crack down on corruption – a nod to Correa, who was discovered responsible in 2020 of violating marketing campaign finance legal guidelines, and the Moreno authorities – and proposed a global anti-corruption fee.
No less than 9 public hospitals are being investigated for embezzlement throughout the pandemic.
Operating in his third presidential race, free-market advocate Lasso has mentioned he would create 1,000,000 jobs in a yr. The previous banker will doubtless follow the austerity insurance policies adopted by Moreno, who has needed to rein in spending in alternate for IMF loans to bolster the oil-producing nation’s faltering dollar-based financial system.
Pollsters say the opportunity of low voter turnout because of the pandemic may dent his assist.
Perez, the primary Indigenous contender in 15 years, is polling at 12 %. The remaining 12 candidates are all at under 4 %, together with Ximena Pena, the one lady on the record.
Emiliano Pibaque, a taxi driver in Quito, mentioned he deliberate to vote for Arauz. Within the final election, he had backed Moreno hoping issues would enhance – however as an alternative, he mentioned, they’ve worsened.
“As a result of they are saying that Correa stole and [did] many different issues, however in truth he did perform many public works tasks whereas the present authorities hasn’t carried out something besides persecute opponents,” he advised Al Jazeera.
Ecuador is mired in debt because the income of an oil growth throughout the Correa presidency dried up underneath Moreno as the value of crude crashed.
The nationwide debt rose from 26 % of gross home product (GDP) to 44 % throughout Moreno’s time period.
The coronavirus pandemic has piled on the strain, with some $6.4bn in losses attributed on to the well being disaster, in accordance with authorities knowledge.
Ecuador’s financial system is forecast to contract 8.9 % in 2020, whereas unemployment reached 8.6 % final September – greater than doubling in 9 months.