Leftist Moreno heading to win in Ecuador presidential race

One of the candidates in the closely-fought Ecuadorian presidential election has caused a row by suggesting that electoral fraud was committed to give his opponent a slender victory, as the country awaits the official results.

With nearly 96 percent of voting acts counted, the National Electoral Council said Moreno had 51 percent of the vote to banker Guillermo Lasso's 49 percent.

For his part, Lasso said tonight in statements to local television that he does not accept the results and that he will contest them.

"We're going to defend the will of the Ecuadorean people in the face of this fraud attempt".

Julian Assange has "cordially" invited the losing presidential candidate to "leave Ecuador within 30 days" using similar language as Guillermo Lasso, who promised to expel the WikiLeaks founder from the Ecuadorean embassy in London should he win.

Lasso demanded a recount after three exit polls showed him winning.

Meanwhile, as Moreno's supporters celebrated his victory, Lasso's camp claimed there had been electoral fraud and threatened to challenge the results in all of Ecuador's 24 provinces.

Moreno, who vows to govern in the interest of all Ecuadorians, expressed gratitude for messages from worldwide leaders congratulating him on his victory.

Angry protests followed the first-round vote on February 19, when Moreno came close to winning outright and Lasso supporters cried fraud.

Ecuadorean state media declared Moreno - outgoing President Rafael Correa's chosen successor - the victor.

In Latin America, where a so-called "pink tide" of leftist leaders has been ebbing, the vote is seen as crucial.

Right-leaning governments have come to power in Argentina, Brazil, and Peru recently as a commodities boom ended, economies flagged and corruption scandals grew. Moreno, 64, also benefited from last-minute doubts that the pro-business Lasso if elected would gut social programs that have endeared poor voters to Correa's "Citizens' Revolution".

The dispute could set the stage for protests in the historically turbulent Andean nation of 16 million people.

With more than 92 percent of voting acts counted, Moreno has 51 percent to 49 percent for rival Guillermo Lasso, according to the website.

Lasso, a center-right former banker who had the support of other opposition parties, ran on an economic platform in which he promised to create 1 million new jobs within four years.

Assange fled to Ecuador's embassy in June 2012 to avoid arrest and extradition to Sweden, where he faces a rape allegation.

"I cordially invite Lasso to leave Ecuador within 30 days (with or without his tax haven millions)", wrote Assange on Twitter, amid accusations that Lasso had dodged taxes by stashing cash overseas.

That was a reference to accusations from Correa's camp that Lasso has money stashed in offshore accounts.

In 2010, WikiLeaks published thousands of classified USA military and diplomatic documents in what became one of the largest information leaks in U.S. history.

The 45-year-old Australian's case has returned to the spotlight since WikiLeaks was accused of meddling in the United States election last year by releasing a damaging trove of hacked emails from presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's campaign and her Democratic party.

  • Leroy Wright