Former Guayaquil banker Guillermo Lasso has scored an upset victory over Rafael Correa protégé Andrés Arauz in Ecuador’s presidential runoff election. With 98.2 percent of the vote counted early Monday, Lasso held an insurmountable 52.4 to 47.6 percent lead.
Although it was believed that the race was narrowing in recent weeks, the average of seven polls gave Arauz a 4.8 percent lead going into the election. “Like many others, I am shocked by the outcome although we all knew that there was a historically high number of undecided voters,” said Pablo Pardo, former labor minister and campaign consultant. “What happened is that the majority of those voters decided to support Lasso when they marked their ballots.”
Lasso, 65, who was making his third run for president, said he would dedicate himself to the “project of reconstructing the country,” emphasizing that he would be president for all Ecuadorians. Arauz conceded the election at 10 p.m. Sunday night.
Prado claimed that the election was a referendum on Correa. “There is no doubt that many voters saw this as a question of whether they wanted to return to the governance and style of Rafael Correa and they rejected it.”
He added: “It is also clear that most of those who voted for Yaku Perez and Xavier Hervas decided to vote for Lasso even though they oppose many of his conservative positions. There were 1.7 million no votes by the indigenous but the others voted for Lasso.”
Lucia Newman, political editor for Al Jazeera, a news organization that had predicted an Arauz victory, called Lasso’s victory a “stunning” upset. “We expected most of the voters who voted for the defeated leftist and center-leftist candidates to support Arauz in the runoff but they voted for Lasso instead,” she said. “The character and manner of [former president Rafael] Correa proved to be divisive and many voters put aside political interests to prevent a return to what they call Correismo. Arauz was unable to separate himself from the legacy of his mentor.”
Both Newman and Prado say that Lasso’s pivot toward liberal positions on the environment, abortion and gay rights after the February election played a role role in appealing to the leftist supporters of Perez and Hervas. “Lasso said he had listened to voters and would not veto legislation that he personally disagreed with, such as relaxing the prohibition on abortion, and this apparently appealed to some voters,” Newman said.
In his victory comments, Lasso acknowledged the support of leftist voters, saying he would honor his word on GLBTI and abortion issues.
Lasso will take office May 24, succeeding Lenin Moreno.