As Lasso takes runoff lead, Pérez calls for calm; ‘Anyone but Correa or Arauz’ movement is forming
As vote-counting continued in Guayaquil, center-right presidential candidate Guillermo Lasso took the lead over indigenous leader Yaku Pérez on Wednesday afternoon and election officials say more votes remain to be counted. As of 5:30 Thursday morning, Lasso led Pérez 19.68 percent to 19.48 percent, a difference of about 21,000 votes.
A spokesman for the National Election Council said that “many thousands” of votes continue to be counted, most of them from Guayas Province where Lasso leads Pérez by a three-to-one margin.
Pérez, who spent Wednesday at the Guayaquil vote-counting center, complained of multiple irregularities in the delivery of ballots to the center but said he will wait until counting is complete before deciding his next move. “At this rate, under these circumstances, it is clear that Lasso will overtake me in the count,” Pérez said at noon Wednesday. “We believe there are serious problems in the process and we do not rule out fraud but we will wait to make our decisions.”
Pérez met with dozens of his supporters outside CNE count center, urging calm but claiming that he remains confident of making it to the presidential runoff against the Correista candidate Andres Arauz in April. Other indigenous leaders are telling followers to be ready for a “national mobilization” and Leonidas Iza, president of the Indigenous and Peasant Movement, said he will be demand a new election between Lasso and Pérez to determine who will face Arauz.
During the day, Pérez and his campaign managers met with CNE officials as well as with international election observers, asking for explanations of counting delays and other matters. The observers told him that despite some confusion they have not witnessed anything that leads them to believe the election was not fair.
As the counting continued, several defeated candidates called for a united front against Arauz and the return of Correismo. Guayaquil businessman and Democratic Left candidate Xavier Hervas, suggested a pact between Lasso and Pérez that they will join forces to oppose Arauz and Correa. “No one wants a return to the policies of Rafael Correa, which is what we will have if Arauz is elected.” He added that he did not know of single candidate in the election who will endorse Arauz.
“After all the damage Correa has inflicted on Ecuador, his puppet Arauz is promising $1,000 to a million poor families,” Hervas said. “The problem is that there are three or four million poor families so who gets left out? We cannot forget that Rafael Correa offered 325,000 homes to the poor but delivered only 30,000. Is this the kind of leadership we want to return to? I say no.”
Hervas, along with Pérez, was the surprise of Sunday’s election, finishing a strong fourth with almost 16 percent of the vote.
Gustavo Larrea, another defeated candidate seconded Hervas’ call, saying a “unified front” will develop against Arauz. “We have to reject the totalitarianism of Correismo as well as the political deception and corruption,” he said. “Arauz, like Correa, claim to be of the left and for supporting the people but what they are really about is building a big government that maintains absolute control for its own self-interest.”
He added: “At the beginning, I was part of Correismo and supported it. I watched as it became corrupted.”
Pérez, Hervas and Larrea were all early supporters of Correa, working for his 2006 election.