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Accusations of fraud sparks over Ecuador’s presidential elections after early results projected victory for the incumbent party’s candidate.

Results show former VP Lenin Moreno of the Socialist Party has 51.12% of the vote, with just 4% of districts still waiting to be counted.

However, challenger Guillermo Lasso had already begun celebrations after an exit poll predicted his victory.

Guillermo Lasso demanded a recount, and called on supporters to take to the streets.

He also alleged electoral fraud had been used to grant victory to his opponent.

In a series of tweets, Guillermo Lasso told the public to “peacefully defend your vote” and said he was “going to defend the will of the people”.

Final official results have yet to be announced.

If Lenin Moreno is declared the winner, he will continue a decade of left-wing leadership begun by President Rafael Correa in 2007.

Image source Wikipedia

He would also become one of a small number of disabled world leaders – he became paraplegic after being shot in the back during a robbery in 1998.

An apparent victory for Lenin Moreno was welcomed by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange – as Guillermo Lasso had vowed to evict him from his asylum in the country’s London embassy if victorious.

Julian Assange tweeted that he “cordially invites” Guillermo Lasso to leave the country within 30 days – referencing the timeframe the candidate gave for Assange’s own eviction.

Guillermo Lasso, a former banker who wants to promote foreign investment, called for a recount after Lenin Moreno started to take a lead in the preliminary results.

Exit polls released on April 2 had suggested an extremely tight race.

A poll by Periles de Opinion had shown Lenin Moreno leading with 52.2%, while a poll by Cedatos showed Guillermo Lasso winning with 53.02%.

Incumbent President Rafael Correa, meanwhile, tweeted criticism of what he termed “violence” in several cities as early results emerged.

Local media reported that some of Guillermo Lasso’s supporters had gathered in the capital of Quito, as well as the city of Guayaquil. According to The El Comercio newspaper, the crowd removed barriers placed in the road, and bottles were thrown by some in Guayaquil.

When he was first elected in 2007, Rafael Correa was one of a group of left-wing leaders in power in Latin America.

However, in the decade since, conservative politicians have taken power in Argentina and Brazil. A victory for Guillermo Lasso would have continued that trend.

Rafael Correa has been re-elected for a third term as Ecuador’s president with more than 50% of the vote.

His main challenger, Guillermo Lasso, has admitted defeat.

Addressing his supporters in the capital, Quito, Rafael Correa, 49, called for “another four years of revolution”.

First elected in 2007, the socialist leader is widely credited with bringing political stability to a nation that suffered decades of protests and coups.

But critics accuse Rafael Correa of being a dictator in the making.

Rafael Correa, a US-trained economist, has been accused of implementing policies that have served to strengthen his hold on power and erode the influence of political opponents and private media.

But his so-called “citizens’ revolution” has made him popular with many ordinary Ecuadoreans and has won him friends among other Latin American left-wing leaders.

Partial results give Rafael Correa 56.7%, ahead of 23.3% for his nearest rival, former banker Guillermo Lasso. The third-placed challenger was poised to take 6.6%, with four others trailing below 5%.

To avoid a run-off, the president needs to win 50% of the total vote or 40% plus a 10-point margin over the second-placed candidate.

Rafael Correa has been re-elected for a third term as Ecuador's president with more than 50 percent of the vote

Rafael Correa has been re-elected for a third term as Ecuador’s president with more than 50 percent of the vote

Speaking on TV after 40% of the votes had been counted, the head of the National Electoral Council said the final result would not be significantly larger or smaller.

President Rafael Correa was quick to claim victory.

“Nobody can stop this revolution,” he told a crowd of supporters gathered outside the balcony of the Carondelet Palace in Quito.

“The colonial powers are not in charge anymore, you can be sure that in this revolution it’s Ecuadoreans who are in charge.”

“We are here to serve you,” he added.

“Nothing for us, everything for you: the people who deserve the right to be free.

“This is not just a victory for Ecuador, this is a victory for the great homeland of Latin America.”

During his six years in power, Rafael Correa has expanded access to healthcare and education and improved thousands of miles of highways, creating many jobs in the process. Poverty rates have dropped significantly.

Critics say that, since coming to office, he has filled the courts and government positions with allies and stifled free speech by taking on the media.

They also complain he has restricted free enterprise with heavy taxation and regulatory changes and taken government spending to an unsustainable level.

Rafael Correa is close to Venezuela and Cuba and has sought to establish ties with Iran and China. Last year, he upset the US, Britain and Sweden by granting asylum to wanted WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange at the Ecuadorean embassy in London.

“I don’t recognize the current Correa. He is a different person. He is not the friend I used to have, that I used to love like a brother,” said Alberto Acosta, one of the co-founders of the Alianza Pais governing party and now an opposition candidate.

“He controls everything. He is a sort of Sun King of the 21st Century,” he said referring to France’s King Louis XIV.

Since 2007, Rafael Correa has re-written the country’s constitution: a move that allowed him to run for, and win, a new term in 2009. He is legally barred from running again after this election, the Associated Press reports.

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