Ecuador's electoral commission has formally ruled that a runoff election will be needed to choose a successor for socialist President Rafael Correa. The body's announcement on Wednesday confirms its earlier indication that ruling party candidate Lenin Moreno and conservative former banker Guillermo Lasso will face off in an April 2 vote.
Moreno led the nine-candidate field in Sunday's election with 39.4% of the votes, while Lasso finished second at 28.1%. Moreno fell just short of the 40% threshold needed for an outright victory.
Correa was first elected president in 2007 and won praise for ushering in stability for Ecuador after a severe economic crisis that saw three presidents driven from office. But he also drew criticism for an authoritarian approach against much of the press, opposition and judiciary.
Correa admitted on Wednesday that his ally Lenin Moreno will have to win a runoff vote to succeed him after a tightly-fought first-round election.
We were just half a point away from winning outright in the first round, Correa told reporters.
Opinion polls and various analysts suggest Moreno faces a tough challenge in the second round since conservative voters are likely to rally behind Lasso.
The defeated third-placed candidate, conservative Cynthia Viteri, called on her supporters to vote for Lasso in the runoff.
Any party could beat the governing one in the second round, because there is major resistance to, and rejection of, the government, said political scientist Paolo Moncagatta of Quito's San Francisco University before Sunday's vote.
Correa however remained defiant that his side could win through to extend leftist rule after his decade in power.