It is no surprise that Rafael Correa protégé Andrés Arauz leads all candidates with 97.5 percent of the vote counted in Sunday’s presidential election. What is surprising is the strength of indigenous candidate Yaku Pérez, who holds a narrow lead over former Guayaquil banker Guillermo Lasso for the right to challenge Arauz in the April 11 runoff.
Another surprise was the strength of fourth place finisher Xavier Hervas, a center-left businessman, who had 16 percent of the vote. The consensus of pre-election polls was that he would receive only five or six percent.
As of 7 Monday morning, Arauz led with 32.20 percent of the vote, followed by Perez at 19.80 percent, Lasso at 19.60 percent and Hervas at 16.02 percent.
Two closely watched exit polls, released shortly after precincts closed at 5 p.m. Sunday, gave Arauz a larger lead but showed he would face Lasso in the runoff. The Cedatos/Gallup poll gave him 34.94 percent of the vote to Lasso’s 20.99 percent, Pérez’s 16.7 percent and Hervas’ 13 percent. The Clima Social poll had it 36.2 percent for Arauz, 21.7 percent for Lasso, 16.7 percent for Pérez 16.7 and 13 percent for Hervas.
In a “rapid count” of representative voting precincts, the National Election Council also indicated that Lasso would challenge Arauz in the runoff, putting Arauz at 31.74 percent, Lasso at 20.05, Pérez at 19.85 percent and Hervas at 17.28 percent. The CNE numbers were released at 8:30 Sunday night with nine percent of votes counted.
In another closely watched race, Cuenca voted overwhelmingly to ban large-scale mining in the canton that affects water resources. Exit polls showed the measure passing with about 80 percent of the vote.
Election analyst and former deputy foreign minister Raúl Estévez said that he was “shocked” at Pérez’s and Hervas’ election strength in Sunday’s voting. “All but two of the polls gave Lasso a comfortable lead over Yaku and it was assumed we would have a runoff between Arauz and Lasso, a choice between the Correistas and a conservative banker,” he said early Monday morning. “If there is not a strong move in Lasso’s favor in counting the last two or three percent of the votes, we will have a choice between two leftists.”
Another question going into Sunday’s election, says Estévez, was whether Arauz would win on the first ballot, receiving 50 percent of the votes or 40 percent with a 10 percent margin over the second-place candidate. “This appeared to be a possibility given Arauz’s momentum in the last weeks of the campaign. Last night’s exit polls put Arauz close to 40 percent but as the official count began it was clear he would come up seven or eight points short.”
Despite his large lead, Estévez believes that both Pérez and Lasso are in a good position to defeat Arauz in April. “There is very strong sentiment against the Correistas in the country and most of the votes that went to other candidates will go to Arauz’s opponent in April, whether it’s Pérez or Lasso.”
In Cuenca and Azuay Province, Pérez led all candidates with more than 40 percent of the vote. Pérez is a former Azuay prefect and a Cuenca resident.
The National Election Council is posting voting results on its website as they are tabulated.