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Night of upsets: Surprise candidates Palacios and Perez elected Cuenca mayor and Azuay prefect

“We are stunned and we are amazed.” That was the assessment of Sunday’s election results by Voice of the Tomebamba radio commentator Jorge Gonzalez as he read the day’s vote totals. “The winners came out of nowhere.”

Pedro Palacios

The winners he was referring to are political newcomers Pedro Palacios and Yaku Pérez, who were elected mayor of Cuenca and prefect of Azuay Province, easily defeating the favorites.

With 99% of votes counted, Palacios, who operates a family-owned business, had 28.05% of the vote followed by Olympic gold medalist Jefferson Pérez at 22.18%, current mayor Marcelo Cabrera at 19.5% and Azuay prefect Paúl Carrasco, with 14.5%.

In the race for provincial prefect, Pérez, who calls himself an “indigenous revolutionary,” registered 32.94%, María Cecilia Alvarado, former vice-prefect of Azuay had 18.01% while Esteban Bernal, who left his position as National Assemblyman, was third at 17.45%.

Yaku Pérez

As returns came in, Palacios said he would wait to make a full statement but added that one of his first priorities as mayor would be to order a full financial accounting of major projects. Palacios campaigned on a platform to make the new tram system self-sufficient, to provide “sustainable” assistance for the poor, to improve security and to begin studies for a new airport.

Pérez, a leader of Ecuador’s indigenous movement, said his “first, second and third priorities” are protecting Azuay’s water sources by opposing mining.

On the political spectrum, Palacios calls himself a center-leftist while Pérez says he’s a populist leftist.

Nationally, election night was marked by slow vote counts and national election council (CNE) website crashes. CNE says complete returns should be available this morning.

Preliminary results show that the predicted battle between President Lenin Moreno and the followers of former president Rafael Correa failed to materialize as voter rejected most of the candidates of both Alianza Pais and Citizens’ Revolution.