Correa claims victory in Ecuador

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IOL pic feb18 ecuador correa

Reuters

Ecuador's President Rafael Correa reacts after hearing the early election results at Carondelet Palace in Quito on Sunday.

Quito - Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa claimed victory in Sunday's presidential election, giving him a new four-year term to continue his socialist revolution and strengthen Latin America's alliance of leftist leaders.

“The victory belongs to each one of you,” said a jubilant Correa from the balcony of the presidential palace above a crowd of supporters in Quito.

“Nobody can stop this revolution.”

Correa won 61 percent of the vote compared with 21 percent for former banker Guillermo Lasso, the strongest showing of the seven opposition candidates in the race, according to a survey by polling firm Opinion Publica.

A separate exit poll by the firm Cedatos showed Correa winning 59 percent of the vote versus 20 percent for Lasso.

The electoral authority was expected to release an official quick-count by 7pm based on 30 percent of the votes cast.

Correa, a pugnacious US-trained economist, wants to continue boosting the state's role in the Opec nation's economy and strengthening the leftist ALBA bloc of Latin American nations that openly oppose the United States.

The only Ecuadorean president in the past 20 years to complete a full term in office, Correa is admired for bringing political stability to a nation where leaders had been frequently toppled by violent street protests or military coups.

Opposition leaders call Correa a dictator in the making who is quashing free speech through hostile confrontation with the media and squelching free enterprise through heavy taxation and constant regulatory changes.

His success hinged in part on high oil prices that allowed for hefty government spending, including providing cash handouts to two million people, and spurred solid economic growth.

Correa hopes to diversify the economy away from oil and win over investors who turned their backs on Ecuador after he defaulted on $3.2-billion in bonds and forced oil companies to sign contracts giving more revenue to the government.

Investors will be watching Correa's new term for signs he is willing to compromise to bring in investment needed to raise stagnant oil production, boost the promising but still nascent mining sector, and expand power generation.

The other six opposition candidates include former Correa ally Alberto Acosta, former President Lucio Gutierrez and banana magnate and five-time presidential candidate Alvaro Noboa.

Ecuadoreans also chose a new Congress on Sunday.

The ruling Alianza Pais party was expected to win a majority of the legislative seats, up from around 42 percent.

That would let Correa push ahead with controversial laws including a plan to create a state watchdog to regulate television and newspaper content, without having to negotiate with rivals.

The results of the vote for Congress are not expected to be known for several days.

Correa spent weeks on the campaign trail, from indigenous villages of the Andean highlands to urban slums in the bustling port city of Guayaquil, singing and dancing to play up an image of youthful energy.

An avid cyclist, Correa filmed one campaign spot showing him changing out of a sharp suit into biking clothes and then riding his bike over mountain peaks and past tropical fishing villages to show the improvement of roads under his leadership. - Reuters


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