Counting is underway in Ecuador’s presidential election run-off and exit polls indicate that the country is likely to join a growing number of its South American neighbours in a left-leaning anti-US coalition. Rafael Correa, a friend of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, and a man who once called US President George W. Bush a “dimwit,” is said to have surged ahead of his rival. The former economy minister has worried Washington with his plans to oppose a US free trade pact and freeze some foreign debt payments. Research suggests Correa has won just over 56 percent of the vote, with his rival Alvaro Noboa on just over 43 percent.
Noboa, who is Ecuador’s wealthiest man, has promised closer ties with the US and market-friendly policies. He has already demanded a scrutiny of the ballot. “I demand that every vote be recounted, for Correa’s sake, for mine and for Ecuador’s”, he said during a television interview.
Analysts say that even if he wins the run-off, Correa could struggle to push through reforms in Congress, where Noboa’s supporters hold more than a quarter of the seats. International observers have warned both parties to be cautious in claiming victory, ahead of the official results which are not expected before Tuesday evening.