After gaining a lead of more than six-tenths of one percent over Guillermo Lasso early Tuesday, Yaku Pérez watched uneasily Tuesday afternoon and evening as most of his advantage slipped away. Meanwhile, Lasso told his followers that the “tide has turned” and he expects to overtake Pérez to challenge Andrés Arauz in the April 11 presidential runoff.
As of 5 a.m. Wednesday, Pérez had 19.72 percent of the vote against 19.59 for Lasso, a difference of less than 15,000 votes. At the same time Tuesday, the count stood at 20.12 percent for Pérez and 19.48 for Lasso.
“I am confident that when all the votes are counted and certified we will be in position to challenge the Correistas in the second round of the election,” Lasso told supporters Tuesday morning. He added that most of the votes remaining to be counted were in Guayas Province where he enjoyed a large advantage over Pérez in votes already counted.
As he watched his lead dwindle, Pérez warned that his mostly indigenous followers would mount “a great national mobilization” if he does not make the runoff. “We will rise up and challenge the oligarchic pact between Lasso, Correa and Nebot by all means necessary,” Pérez said. “We are watching for the fraud that could take place late Tuesday night and Wednesday and are prepared to defend our votes.”
On Tuesday, the top three candidates met with representatives of the National Election Council for an explanation of the vote counting process. In addition to votes remaining to be counted, estimated at less than one percent of the total, they were told there are hundreds of thousands of ballots that must be reviewed again due to irregularities such as missing signatures from poll workers or scanning difficulties. According to CNE, a large percentage of those ballots are in Guayas Province.
The campaigns of Lasso and Pérez complained of confusion regarding the number of votes remaining to be counted and the number of irregular ballots that are yet to be counted. The CNE says most, but not all, irregular ballots are included in the count. The Pérez campaign also objected to the use of percentages instead of numbers in the counting process. The CNE responded that the percentage tabulation is used to “simplify” the reporting process and numbers are available if requested.
Members of three international election observation teams said Tuesday afternoon that they have seen indications of vote counting problems. “I understand the frustration on the part of some candidates but process remains open and transparent as far as I can determine,” said Oscar Laborde, member of the Mercosur observer team.
Lasso called Pérez’s charge of a conspiracy between him, Correa and former Guayaquil mayor Jaime Nebot delusional. “He claims I have met personally with Correa but how is this possible? He is in Belgium and I am in Guayaquil.” Lasso also questioned Pérez’s attack as a matter of campaign strategy. “The one of us who faces Arauz in April will need the support of the other to win the election. What sense does it make that he says I am in a crazy plot against him? Why make enemies at this point?”
During a Tuesday press conference, CNE president Diana Atamaint repeated her earlier caution that the vote counting and certification process could take days and even weeks to complete.”This election is a long way from being over,” she said.