Recount demanded as leftist claims victory in Ecuador

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

Lasso demanded a recount after three exit polls showed him winning. During the election campaign, Moreno promised to continue the policies set by Correa.

And Lasso was unsuccessful in his attempt to sway a sizable bloc of undecided voters among the 13 million Ecuadoreans eligible to vote in Sunday's contest by denouncing Correa's long-standing bond with Venezuela's former President Hugo Chavez and his successor Nicolas Maduro.

With 98.84 percent of votes counted, the CNE said Moreno earned 5 million votes for 51.15 percent of the total, while Lasso earned 4.8 million votes for 48.85 percent of the total in Sunday's runoff election.

Hundreds of his supporters had swarmed in front of electoral council offices in the capital, Quito, and in Guayaquil, on Sunday waving yellow, blue and red Ecuadorean flags and chanting "No to fraud!" and "We don't want to be Venezuela!"

"We'll act peacefully but forcefully", Lasso, 61, wrote on his Twitter account.

We are talking about the 45-year-old Australian WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange who is facing extradition to Sweden to fight allegations of sexual assault, but who is also very much wanted by the USA on suspicion of espionage for his organization's disclosure of massive amounts of classified information.

"Yes, all, but especially the poor", Moreno said in a speech to some 2,000 supporters outside the presidential palace.

The vote count dragged on for several days before the official results were announced, provoking accusations of fraud from both sides and angry protests that have injected an unusual degree of volatility in the election results. This lead some to speculate that the region's swing to the left over the past two decades was over, although Ecuador's results suggests such calls are simplistic.

Mr Lasso had assumed victory and started celebrating after an exit poll showed him comfortably ahead.

"I think the circumstances favor a narrow win for the opposition", said Sebastián Hurtado, a political analyst in Quito.

Sunday's race between Moreno and conservative ex-banker Guillermo Lasso was closely watched as a barometer of the political climate in Latin America, where more than a decade of leftist dominance has been waning.

He said he would "cordially ask Senor Assange to leave with 30 days of assuming a mandate".

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

The change in fortunes has tilted Argentina and Peru to the right, and many leftists saw the mild-mannered Moreno as their best chance to break the rightward trend. Buried in the communiqués was a 2009 document by U.S. Ambassador to Ecuador Heather Hodges where she outlined alleged corruption charges against a former police chief and speculated that Correa had appointed him because his checkered past made him easy to manipulate.

  • Leroy Wright