Ecuador's President Rafael Correa victory margin in Saturday’s ten question referendum on planned media, banking and judicial reforms has narrowed dramatically according to the latest figures released by the National Electoral Council.
The latest data from the Electoral Council shows that with about 40% of ballots counted, the votes in favor of the 'Yes' in the referendum are in a range of 43.7% to 49.06%, compared with 40.56% to 44.25% for the 'No.'
Those figures don't include results on a controversial plan to restrict cockfighting and bullfighting, because those results will depend on local jurisdictions.
The official results show 45.85% for the 'Yes' side and 43.53% for the 'No' side on the controversial questions that asked Ecuadorians if they want to limit banks to offering financial services only and strip them of other interests and to forbid media company ownership of non-media companies.
Asked about a controversial judicial reform that would see the Council of the Judiciary replaced by a three-person panel to overhaul the judicial system in 18 months, 44.73% of Ecuadorians said 'Yes' and 44.25% said 'No'.
In relation to the creation of a media council that would define media companies and the individual responsibility of journalists, the 'Yes' reached 43.7% of the votes and the 'No' 43.66%.
The results also showed that the 'No' side has won in about 11 of the 24 Ecuador's provinces.
President Correa accused groups Monday of manipulating the vote count as his margin of victory narrowed. Certain provinces “are refusing to include their vote data in the national count in a protest to claim that results are too tight”, on at least the two media relates reforms Correa said at a news conference.
He added that there are still no overall results from the most important provinces in which he has strong support and where the yes side is expected to win with an important margin of an average of about seven points.
Analysts said the results could be a sign that Correa's strong popularity is declining, while several critics say that the referendum results could force Correa to rethink his style of government.
The main opposition to Correa has been himself. Ecuadorians are tired of his aggressiveness, said political analyst Teodoro Bustamante.
Opposition groups meanwhile called for a recount, pointing to inconsistencies in the results.
It is essential, and that was our request to the National Electoral Council, to open all ballot boxes and recount the votes in those records where there are inconsistencies, said Cesar Montufar, leader of the National Coalition movement.
He pointed to an unprecedented number of records that are not being processed for inconsistencies, especially in provinces with higher numbers of voters. It is extremely worrying said Montufar.
However observers from de Organization of American States said Monday that there is no evidence of fraud, but said there were major weaknesses in the training of members who ran the voting tables.
If the exit poll results are officially confirmed, the referendum will mark a sixth major political victory for Correa, an economist by training and close ally of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, in his four-year running.