© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Ecuador's presidential candidate Guillermo Lasso waves to supporters in Quito
QUITO (Reuters) – Conservative banker Guillermo Lasso will advance to the second round of Ecuador's presidential elections after finishing second on Feb.7, the country's electoral authority said on Sunday, while the third-placed claimed fraud.
The National Electoral Council (CNE) said Lasso, a proponent of market-friendly economic policies, received 19.74% of the vote and will run against left-wing economist Andres Arauz on April 11. Arauz, an ally of former President Rafael Correa, won the most votes in the first round with 32.72%, shy of the margin needed to win directly.
Indigenous environmentalist candidate Yaku Perez took third place with 19.39% of the vote, 32,600 fewer than Lasso, the CNE said. Perez had requested recounts in 17 of Ecuador's 24 provinces for alleged fraud and manipulation of the number of votes.
The CNE denied the request before the results were released, arguing that it did not provide enough evidence, but Perez was defiant.
"We will continue to take action because electoral fraud cannot go unpunished," he said in the Andean city of Riobamba.
Perez has been marching with hundreds of indigenous Ecuadorians through the central highlands of the country towards the capital Quito since last week to request a recount. Other civil society groups have announced plans to demonstrate in favor of Perez next week.
The Attorney General's Office and Auditor's Office both asked the CNE to check their computer systems before the second round in order to respond to Perez's allegations. Both Lasso and Arauz said they would speak out against the intervention of other units in the election process and warn of delaying the vote.
"It's time to defend and strengthen democracy," Lasso said on Twitter.
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