Ecuador Election: Gonzalez Ahead, Noboa Second in Tight Race
Ecuadorians voted on Sunday for a new president in a snap election that was marred by the murder of a candidate and overshadowed by a surge of violence and economic hardship.
Gonzalez leads with narrow margin
With 51.2% of the votes counted, Luisa Gonzalez, a leftist economist backed by former president Rafael Correa, was leading with 28.7% of the vote, followed by Daniel Noboa, a conservative businessman and son of former president Alvaro Noboa, with 25.4%.
Both candidates fell short of the 40% threshold or a 10-point lead over the closest rival needed to win outright in the first round. A runoff is expected to take place on October 15 between the top two contenders.
Gonzalez, who campaigned on a platform of reviving the social programs and infrastructure projects of Correa’s decade-long rule, thanked her supporters and said she was confident of winning in the second round.
Noboa, who promised to boost the private sector and attract foreign investment, said he was ready to face Gonzalez in a “historic” duel that would define the future of Ecuador.
Election overshadowed by violence and crisis
The election was held amid a wave of violence that has rocked Ecuador in recent years, fueled by drug trafficking and organized crime. On August 13, Fernando Villavicencio, a former journalist and anti-corruption activist who was running for president, was shot dead as he left a campaign event in Quito.
His murder sparked outrage and condemnation from across the political spectrum and raised questions about the security situation in the country. The government said it had arrested several suspects linked to criminal groups and offered a $100,000 reward for information leading to the masterminds of the killing.
Another candidate, Otto Sonnenholzner, said he was targeted by a shooting near his campaign headquarters on Saturday, but escaped unharmed. He blamed the attack on “mafias” that wanted to silence him.
The election also took place amid a severe economic crisis that has been worsened by the Covid-19 pandemic, which has killed more than 32,000 people in Ecuador and pushed millions into poverty and unemployment.
The outgoing president, Guillermo Lasso, who took office in May 2021 after defeating Correa’s protégé Andres Arauz in a runoff, called for early elections in May 2023 after invoking a constitutional mechanism that dissolved the National Assembly.
Lasso said he wanted to end the political deadlock that had hampered his efforts to implement reforms and tackle corruption. He also said he would not run for re-election, citing health reasons.
Referendums on oil and mining
Along with the presidential and legislative elections, Ecuadorians also voted on two referendums: one on whether to ban oil exploitation in the Yasuní National Park, one of the most biodiverse areas in the world; and another on whether to prohibit metallic mining in the Chocó Andino area, a region rich in flora and fauna.
According to preliminary results, both referendums were approved by a large majority of voters, with more than 70% voting in favor of protecting the environment from extractive activities.
The referendums were seen as a test of public opinion on the role of natural resources in Ecuador’s development model, which has been a source of debate and conflict for decades.
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