The decision by Ecuador’s election commission to delay release of presidential voting results has put the country’s police and military on high alert for possible civil unrest.
In Quito and Guayaquil, police are separating demonstrators, that sometimes number in the thousands, supporting presidential front-runners Lenin Moreno and Guillermo Lasso. Lasso and his supporters claim that there are cases of fraud in the vote-counting process while the Moreno camp and National Electoral Council (CNE) say the process is fair.
At stake is Lasso’s spot in a runoff election with Moreno. Lasso represents the conservative CREO party while Moreno is a member of President Rafael Correa’s leftist Alianza País. A Lasso victory would mean the end to Correa’s and País’ 10-year rule.
Election law requires that Moreno receive 40% of the vote with a 10% lead over Lasso to avoid a runoff. Five defeated candidates in Sunday’s presidential election have pledged to support Lasso in a runoff while one, Paco Moncayo, said he would not make an endorsement.
The heads of Ecuador’s national police and military command issued statements Monday saying that law and order will be maintained during the electoral delay and afterward, if necessary. The General Council of the Armed Forces called for patience restraint. “We ask all citizens to remain calm as the electoral problems are resolved. Once results are announced, we ask that they respect the will of the people and respect our constitutional electoral system.”
The commander of Ecuador’s national police said he considered the country to be in “a crisis situation” until election results are made public.
Meanwhile, rumors are circulating on social media of voter irregularities that favor Moreno. Andrés Páez, Lasso’s vice presidential candidate, claimed Monday to have photographs providing evidence of voting “anomalies,” although he provided no details. The military command denied other rumors reportedly circulated by retired military personnel, that officers sympathetic to Lasso would attempt a coup if voting results do not require a runoff election.
Dozens of incidents of pushing and shoving and some fist fights were reported in Quito and Guayaquil Monday as police struggled to control crowds.
Voting results as of early Tuesday morning, show Moreno at 39.08% and Lasso at 28.43%, with 92% of the vote counted. The latest figures show a .10% increase for Lasso and a .01% drop for Moreno.
International election monitors from Unasur, the Organization of American States (OAS) and the Inter-American Union of Electoral Organizations reported Monday that the elections went smoothly and that they observed no serious irregularities during the voting process.
The CNE said it would release election results on Wednesday but said it could be longer.