A nail-biting election in Ecuador appeared to end Sunday with leftist candidate Lenín Moreno winning the presidency over conservative Guillermo Lasso.
The National Electoral Council declared Moreno the winner by 51 percent, just minutes after another organization had said the race was a technical tie with both candidates being within 0.6 percentage points of each other.
Lasso demanded a recount as his supporters protested.
Moreno, leader of the ruling party, is seen as the political successor to outgoing President Rafael Correa. Moreno also previously served as Correa’s vice president.
William K. Black, lawyer and academic, wrote an op-ed for Common Dreams last week that described Lasso as “a leader in aiding Ecuador’s oligarchs to evade taxation through offshore tax havens” whose “platform is the standard right-wing recipe that caused Ecuador’s recurrent economic, social, and political crises.”
Indeed, Moreno rose in the polls in the week leading up the vote, after his party criticized Lasso for profiting from the nation’s 1999 banking crisis.
The election was seen as a temperature check of Latin America’s recent rightward shift. Brazil’s former President Dilma Rousseff was ousted in 2016 in what many called a coup, while Argentina elected neoliberal businessman Mauricio Macri the year before. Peru also elected a right-leaning government in 2016.
Moreno’s victory also means that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange will likely be able to remain at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where Correa granted him asylum in 2012 after he released tens of thousands of secret U.S. diplomatic cables and documents.
Lasso had vowed that if elected, he would “cordially invite” Assange to vacate the embassy within 30 days.
Assange responded to the result with a pointed remark at Lasso.
“I cordially invite Lasso to leave Ecuador within 30 days (with or without his tax haven millions),” Assange tweeted Monday.
Assange has lived in the Ecuadorian embassy for the past five years, fearing extradition to Sweden over sexual assault allegations. He has said he believes extradition would end with him being sent to the U.S., where he is wanted for publishing the diplomatic cables.