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Guillermo Lasso Cheap Jaccob Slavin Jersey , presidential candidate for the CREO political party, right, and his running mate Andres Paez celebrate at the end of election day in Guayaquil, Ecuador, Sunday, April 2, 2017. (AP Photo Jose Sanchez).
QUITO, Ecuador — Leftist candidate Lenin Moreno won Ecuador's presidential runoff Sunday, according to an official quick count, reversing a recent right-ward trend in Latin American politics and continuing President Rafael Correa's "Citizens' Revolution."
But opposition candidate Guillermo Lasso, a conservative former banker who had already claimed victory based three exit polls that showed him winning, immediately demanded a recount, setting the stage for protests in this historically turbulent Andean nation.
"We will know how to defend the people's will," Lasso said.
The quick count of a statistically-selected voting acts commissioned by the National Electoral Council showed Moreno beating Lasso 51 percent to 49 percent.
Minutes earlier a separate quick count by a respected local group said found was a technical tie with a difference of less than 0.6 percentage points separating the two candidates. The group refrained from saying which candidate was leading until the electoral authorities made their pronouncement.
Official results still being counted showed Moreno ahead by two points with 94 percent of voting acts counted.
"The moral fraud of the right-wing won't go unpunished," Correa said on Twitter, referring to what Moreno called misleading exit polls that had "lied" to his rival.
Earlier, a jubilant Lasso told supporters in Guayaquil that he would free political prisoners and heal divisions created by 10 years of iron-fisted rule by Correa. Before the election, he said he would evict WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange from the Ecuadorean embassy in London within 30 days of taking office.
"Today a new Ecuador has been born," Lasso said to loud shouts of "freedom" and "get out thieves."
"Behind us are those dark pages of hatred among Ecuadoreans," he said.
But Moreno had urged supporters to wait for official results that he said would confirm his "triumph."
Supporters of Lasso amassed outside the National Electoral Council to guard against what they fear could be attempts to steal an eventual victory. Moreno supporters gathered at another point just beyond the four-block security perimeter.
The president cast his vote shortly after polls opened early Sunday, saying that the contest would be "very important" for determining whether the small Andean nation of 16 million takes a turn for the right or if "progressive tendencies resume their force."
With Ecuador's economy slated to shrink by 2.7 percent this year as oil prices remain low and with a majority of citizens stating in surveys that they are eager for change, analysts had been anticipating that Ecuadoreans would back Lasso and join the growing list of Latin American nations shifting to the right.
Yet in the final weeks of the race, Moreno had inched ahead in polls amid an aggressive campaign led by Correa to cast Lasso as a wealthy, out-of-touch politician who profited from the country's 1999 banking crisis.
"We know how to put ourselves in your shoes, understand your dreams and wishes," Moreno said in a final campaign announcement.
Authorities are deploying thousands of officers to beef up security at vote-processing centers around the country after a contentious first-round election on Feb. 19, in which Moreno fell just short of the required threshold to avoid a runoff.
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.
Fearing a contested election, church leaders have appealed to both campaigns to accept whatever the results.
Lasso has put forward a pro-business agenda aimed at attracting foreign investment, reducing taxes and generating more jobs and in recent days drew comparisons between continuing a Correa-style government and going down the same path as socialist Venezuela.
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