Indigenous people rally in Ecuador, cry vote fraud, seek recount

Quito (AFP) –


Hundreds of indigenous Ecuadorans rallied Thursday in support of their presidential candidate, who says there was fraud in the weekend election and wants a recount.

"Fraud has been consummated," said candidate Yaku Perez as supporters gathered outside the National Electoral Council waving colorful indigenous flags.

Perez, a 51-year-old environmental lawyer, did surprisingly well in Sunday's vote, which produced no clear winner.

He and right-wing ex-banker Guillermo Lasso are battling it out for second place even though polls had said Lasso was favored to go easily into the second round.

First place went to young leftist economist Andres Arauz. The runoff is in April.

With over 99 percent of ballots counted, Perez had 19.42 percent of the votes, against 19.72 percent for Lasso.

Lasso joined Perez in calling for a recount.

"You have my support in your request to the National Electoral Council," said Lasso in a video.

The director of the council, Diana Atamaint, said Wednesday that in the next 48 hours the vote counting would be complete.

Outgoing and unpopular President Lenin Moreno's term in office ends May 24. He did not seek re-election.

Ecuador is mired in debt as the profits of an oil boom during the presidency of Rafael Correa for a decade starting in 2007 dried up under Moreno as the price of crude crashed.

National debt rose from 26 percent of GDP to 44 percent during Moreno's term.

The coronavirus epidemic has meanwhile piled on the pressure, with some $6.4 billion in losses attributed directly to the health crisis, according to government data.

Ecuador's economy is forecast to contract 8.9 percent in 2020, while unemployment reached 8.6 percent last September -- more than doubling in nine months.