Socialist candidate Lenin Moreno celebrated victory in Ecuador’s presidential election, changing the shift to the right in South America, but his conservative challenger demanded a recount over scattered protests.
Moreno’s triumph is a big relief for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange after former banker and losing candidate, Guillermo Lasso had vowed to remove him from Ecuador’s embassy in London if he won the runoff.
It was also a boost for the struggling leftist movement in South America after right-leaning governments recently came to power in Argentina, Brazil, and Peru.
The region’s high-profile Socialist leader, President Nicolas Maduro of the desperately struggling Venezuela, congratulated Moreno on Twitter and Bolivian President Evo Morales as well.
“Congratulations Ecuador, the citizen’s revolution has triumphed!” said Maduro.
And Morales tweeted, “21st century Socialism always triumphs,” Congratulations brother @Lenin!”
Moreno, who lost the use of his legs two decades ago when he was shot during a robbery, will become a rare head of state to use a wheelchair when he takes office next month. He put rights for disabled Ecuadorians at the heart of his campaign.
Lasso had promised to denounce the embattled Maduro, who some say has turned his country into a dictatorship.
Moreno, a former vice president, secured 51.17 percent of the votes, compared with Lasso’s 48.83 percent, with over 99 percent of votes counted, the electoral council tally showed on Monday afternoon.
“I’m warning the world that in Ecuador procedures are being violated, and they’re trying to swear in an illegitimate government on May 24,” he said on Monday. “This is a clumsy fraud attempt.” Said Lasso.
Lasso tweeted photos showing what he said were original votes for him that were changed by electoral officials and on Monday presented his complaint to the Organization of American States, which has a mission in Ecuador.
But the OAS later said in a statement it had seen no discrepancies between results collected by its observers at polling stations and official results. They denied fraud allegations.
Ruling Country Alliance party officials scoffed that Lasso was a sore loser who was inciting violence.
But Lasso persevered on Monday, holding a rally under the pouring rain in his coastal hometown of Guayaquil and vowing to keep battling what he said was fraud.
Hundreds of his supporters had swarmed in front of electoral council offices in the capital, Quito, and in Guayaquil, on Sunday waving yellow, blue and red Ecuadorean flags and chanting “No to fraud!” and “We don’t want to be Venezuela!”
Moreno will need to cultivate support from many in the polarized country who view his narrow win with suspicion.
The 64-year-old celebrated in mountainous Quito overnight with the flag-waving crowd chanting, “Lenin President!”
A big hug to those who believed in our proposal as well as to those who did not vote for us; we’ll work for them too, Moreno tweeted.
Moreno, will be under pressure to create jobs and crackdown on corruption scandals at state-run oil company PetroEcuador and Brazilian conglomerate Odebrecht.
Moreno has the advantage of a legislative majority, but his government will have to confront fiscal restraints, a stagnant economy, and the burden of last April’s earthquake.”