Ecuador's outgoing President Rafael Correa votes in a presidential election where he hopes to see an ally clinch enough support to avoid a runoff against a conservative ex-banker. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
ROUGH CUT - NATURAL (NO REPORTER NARRATION) Ecuador's outgoing President Rafael Correa voted on Sunday (February 19) in a presidential election where he hopes to see an ally clinch enough support to avoid a runoff against a conservative ex-banker. Correa was all smiles as he cast his ballot in Quito early on Election Day. Lenin Moreno, 63, a disabled former vice-president, needs 40 percent of valid votes and a 10 percentage point difference with his nearest rival to avoid a second round on April 2 and continue a decade of left-wing rule in the Andean country. He looked close in an early February poll, with an estimated 38.6 percent of valid votes versus 25.7 percent for his nearest challenger Guillermo Lasso, a 61-year-old former president of Banco de Guayaquil, according to top pollster Cedatos. But should Moreno be forced into a second round, analysts expect Ecuador's fractured opposition to coalesce around Lasso amid an economic downturn and corruption scandals in OPEC's smallest member state. Moreno, who lost use of his legs two decades ago after being shot during a robbery, has a more conciliatory style than the fiery Correa and has promised benefits for the disabled, single mothers, and the elderly. But the economy is weighing heavily on voters. Unemployment is running high, the middle class is upset over tax hikes, and corruption scandals at state-run oil company PetroEcuador and Brazilian conglomerate Odebrecht have outraged many. Lasso has campaigned on a platform to revive the economy, which is dependent on exports of oil, flowers, and shrimp, by slashing taxes, fostering foreign investment, and creating 1 million jobs in four years. He has also vowed a clean break with Correa's foreign policy. He would remove Wikileaks founder Julian Assange from the country's embassy in London by late June and take a firm stance against Venezuela's socialist government. The next presidential term starts on May 24 and lasts four years. Polls close at 5 p.m. local time (2200 GMT) and preliminary results are expected to trickle in throughout the evening.