Ruling party candidate Lenin Moreno looked headed to victory in Ecuador's presidential runoff Sunday but his rival refused to recognize the results, claiming he was the victim of fraud in what could set the stage for prolonged protests. The election in the small Andean nation was being watched closely for whether it marked a comeback for leftist candidates after a string of right-wing victories across Latin America, the AP reports. With almost 96% of votes counted, the National Electoral Council said Moreno, the chosen successor of President Rafael Correa, had 51% of the vote to banker Guillermo Lasso's 49%. A difference of 214,000 votes separated the two candidates with about twice the number of votes still left to count.
Lasso demanded a recount after three exit polls showed him winning. "This is very sickening. We're not going to allow it," said Lasso, who called on supporters to protest the results peacefully but firmly. Thousands of outraged Lasso supporters shouting "fraud" broke through metal barricades at electoral council's headquarters in Quito before being pushed back by police. Earlier, a jubilant Lasso claimed victory and told supporters 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. Moreno says he will allow him to stay.