By Liam Higgins
The day after bragging that Sunday’s election was running like a well-oiled machine, Juan Pablo Pozo, president of Ecuador’s National Electoral Council (CNE) reported that it was, in fact, full errors and inconsistencies. It was so bad, it turns out, that his office won’t release final election results until Wednesday or possibly later.
Hanging in the balance is the outcome of the country’s presidential race, where Lenin Moreno is only nine-tenths of a percentage point away from an outright victory while challenger Guillermo Lasso is convinced that he will face Moreno in an April 2 runoff. With 92% of the ballots counted, Moreno leads 39.08% to Lasso’s 28.43%. For a first-round victory, Moreno must have 40% of the vote with a 10% advantage over Lasso.
Pozo said that there were problems with more than 12% of the ballots, including lack of sign-offs from the secretaries of voting boards, illegibility, and late arrivals from foreign voting locations. The problems won’t have a significant impact on votes already counted, he said, and may have little overall effect on the total outcome.
Pozo’s comments were met with anger by Lasso and Quito Mayor Mayor Mauricio Rodas. Lasso is warning of voter fraud and says that his CREO party has vigilantes stationed at strategic locations in the case CNE “attempts to steal the election for the government.” Rodas asked Pozo, “Why can’t you get your job done,” saying the delay could lead to civil unrest in Quito.
Lasso says that the final votes will not put Moreno above the 40% mark. “His average has not moved by more than one-and-a-half percent since the voting began and it’s inconceivable that it would change dramatically with the final 10%,” he said.
Moreno supporters claim, however, that the uncounted votes are mostly from Manabi Province and overseas, where they say the former vice president has strong support. On Monday afternoon, Moreno said he was still confident that the final votes will put him over the top.
Thousands of supporters of Lasso and Moreno, separated by police cordons, faced off outside CNE offices in Quito and Guayaquil. In Cuenca, several hundreds of Lasso supporters massed outside a vote counting station north of town Monday morning.