A conservative former banker, Guillermo Lasso, has won Ecuador’s presidential election following a run-off vote. His opponent, the left-wing economist Andrés Arauz, conceded defeat hours after polls closed on Sunday. With almost all the ballots counted, Mr Lasso had won 52.5% of the vote compared to Mr Arauz’s 47.5%.
Mr Lasso, a 65-year-old three-time presidential candidate, told supporters he accepted the “challenge of changing our country’s destiny”. “It’s a day in which all Ecuadoreans have decided their future,” he said. “They have used their vote to express the need for change and the desire for better days.” Mr Arauz, meanwhile, congratulated his rival. “I will show him our democratic convictions,” he said at a rally. Mr Lasso will assume office on 24 May.
The former banker, who has twice finished second in presidential votes, represents the country’s business sector. He has vowed to break away from the leftist policies of past administrations that he says have dragged Ecuador down. He has pledged to attract increased foreign investment, create two million new jobs and increase oil production. On the economy, he has proposed an increase in the minimum monthly wage as well as tax cuts for small businesses and the creation of a fund to stimulate entrepreneurship.
However, Mr Lasso has been accused by critics of offering a continuation of the unpopular Lenin Moreno government which has been badly battered by intertwined health and economic crises.
According to Ecuador’s central bank, the country’s economy shrunk by 7.8% in 2020 and data from the National Statistics and Census Institute (INEC) showed that some half a million people remained unemployed as of January 2021.
In addition to the economic turmoil, corruption accusations inside the health ministry led to an almost two-month delay in designing a national Covid-19 vaccination plan.
Mr Lasso has vowed to vaccinate nine million Ecuadoreans in the first 100 days of his administration, and promised to lead “better” direct negotiations with the pharmaceutical companies producing the jabs.