Ecuador in key vote for Latin American left

2017-02-19 17:41
A man casts his vote at a polling station in Quito, Ecuador. (Rodrigo Buendia, AFP)

A man casts his vote at a polling station in Quito, Ecuador. (Rodrigo Buendia, AFP)

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Quito - Ecuador voted in general elections on Sunday that could see a pillar of the Latin American left swing to the right at an economic turning point for the oil-rich nation.

The vote puts in question the legacy of outgoing leftist President Rafael Correa, who is marking the end of 10 years and three terms in power. The outspoken critic of the United States is not running for re-election.

It could also alter the fate of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. The two leading conservative candidates have said that if they win, they will evict him from Ecuador's London embassy where he has taken refuge for fear of extradition to the United States.

Social policies

Economist Correa, 53, initially oversaw a boom in the oil-rich country of 16 million.

Now, "what is at stake are two visions of society, two visions of development, two visions of the state," he said of Sunday's election.

Voters must decide whether to continue his Socialist agenda by electing his ally Lenin Moreno, or to follow Argentina, Brazil and Peru in switching to a conservative government.

Moreno, who leads in opinion polls, promises to continue Correa's tax-and-spend social policies.

"The Ecuadoran people have affection (for us) and are determined to continue with this process," said the 63-year-old.

But in an uncertain contest, Moreno faces a challenge from conservative ex-banker Guillermo Lasso, 61, second in the opinion polls. He hasvowed to cut spending and taxes, lure foreign investment and create a million jobs.

He has also slammed Correa's allies over alleged links to a corruption scandal.

"We have to vote for change to fight against corruption," Lasso said during campaigning.

The third-placed candidate is conservative former lawmaker Cynthia Viteri, 51.

Correa says Latin America needs a strong leftist movement to resist US President Donald Trump's hard line on immigration and trade.

Conservative candidate

But Lasso and Viteri have shown more willingness to work with Washington since Trump's election victory in November.

Opinion polls indicate Moreno will likely win Sunday's first-round vote.

But his lead may not be big enough to avoid a runoff on April 2 against a conservative rival, most likely Lasso.

Analysts say voters fed up with Correa may then rally behind whichever conservative candidate gets through.

Polls show a high ratio of undecided voters.

Read more on:    wikileaks  |  rafael correa  |  julian assange  |  ecuador  |  elections

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