(Adds details on OAS)
By Alexandra Ulmer and Alexandra Valencia
QUITO, April 3 Socialist candidate Lenin Moreno
on Monday celebrated victory in Ecuador's presidential election,
bucking a shift to the right in South America, but his
conservative challenger demanded a recount amid scattered
Moreno's triumph was a relief for WikiLeaks founder Julian
Assange after former banker Guillermo Lasso had vowed to remove
him from Ecuador's embassy in London if he won the runoff.
It was also a boost for the struggling leftist movement in
South America after right-leaning governments recently came to
power in Argentina, Brazil, and Peru as a commodities boom
ended, economies flagged and corruption scandals grew.
The region's high-profile Socialist leader, President
Nicolas Maduro of crisis-hit Venezuela, congratulated Moreno
profusely on Twitter, as did Bolivian President Evo Morales.
"Congratulations Ecuador, the citizen's revolution has
triumphed!" said Maduro, who was echoed by much of his Cabinet.
"21st century Socialism always triumphs," tweeted Morales.
"Congratulations brother @Lenin!"
Lasso had promised to denounce the embattled Maduro, who
foes say has turned his country into a dictatorship.
Moreno, a paraplegic former vice president, secured 51.17
percent of the votes, compared with Lasso's 48.83 percent, with
over 99 percent of votes counted, the electoral council tally
showed on Monday afternoon.
Lasso, who had proclaimed himself victorious based on a top
pollster's exit poll, disputed the close results that would
extend a decade-long leftist rule in oil-rich Ecuador.
"I'm warning the world that in Ecuador procedures are being
violated, and they're trying to swear in an illegitimate
government on May 24," he said on Monday. "This is a clumsy
Lasso tweeted photos showing what he said were original
votes for him that were changed by electoral officials and on
Monday presented his complaint to the Organization of American
States, which has an observation mission in Ecuador.
But the OAS later said in a statement it had seen "no
discrepancies" between results collected by its observers at
polling stations and official results. And the election
authority denied fraud allegations.
Ruling Country Alliance party officials scoffed that Lasso
was a sore loser who was inciting violence.
But Lasso persevered on Monday, holding a rally under the
pouring rain in his coastal hometown of Guayaquil and vowing to
keep battling what he said was fraud.
Hundreds of his supporters had swarmed in front of electoral
council offices in the capital, Quito, and in Guayaquil, on
Sunday waving yellow, blue and red Ecuadorean flags and chanting
"No to fraud!" and "We don't want to be Venezuela!"
Protests did not appear to be escalating. But Moreno will
need to cultivate support from many in the polarized country who
view his narrow win with suspicion.
Moreno, who lost the use of his legs two decades ago when he
was shot during a robbery, will become a rare head of state to
use a wheelchair when he takes office next month. He put rights
for disabled Ecuadoreans at the heart of his
The 64-year-old celebrated in mountainous Quito overnight
with the flag-waving crowd chanting, "Lenin President!"
"A big hug to those who believed in our proposal as well as
to those who did not vote for us; we'll work for them too,"
Moreno tweeted on Monday, when he participated in the changing
of the guard at the presidential palace in Quito with outgoing
President Rafael Correa.
Moreno, a former United Nations special envoy on disability
and accessibility, has a more conciliatory style than the fiery
Correa and has promised to reach out to opponents and business
He will be under pressure to create jobs and crack down on
graft amid corruption scandals at state-run oil company
PetroEcuador and Brazilian conglomerate Odebrecht.
Lasso had criticized Moreno as being ill-equipped to deal
with economic issues and warned that his major social promises
would hit already pressured coffers in a country dependent on
exports of oil, bananas and shrimp.
"Moreno's margin of victory was much smaller than those of
his predecessor, Rafael Correa, leaving him in a much weaker
spot," said John Polga-Hecimovich, a political scientist at the
U.S. Naval Academy.
"He has the advantage of a legislative majority (for now),
but his government will have to confront fiscal restraints, a
stagnant economy, and the burden of a recovery from last April's
(Additional reporting by Yury Garcia, Daniel Tapia, and Henry
Romero in Guayaquil and Jose Llangari and Mariana Bazo in Quito;
Writing by Alexandra Ulmer; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne,
Jonathan Oatis and Mary Milliken)