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To: ms.smartest.person who wrote (5092)10/20/2006 11:18:43 AM
From: ms.smartest.person  Read Replies (1) of 5140
 
Top election official dismisses cries of fraud in Ecuador presidential vote

The Associated Press

Published: October 17, 2006
QUITO, Ecuador Ecuador's top election official on Tuesday dismissed allegations that the breakdown of the computerized "quick count" in Sunday's first-round vote indicates fraud.

"Things should not be confused nor distorted in an unhealthy or ill-intentioned way. There has been no intention of fraud in the Supreme Electoral Tribunal," the organization's president Xavier Cazar told Radio Universal.

Rafael Correa, a leftist candidate who is heading into a presidential runoff, had alleged the computer crash was not a technical failure but part of a scheme to cost him votes.

Preliminary results show none of the 13 candidates Sunday gained a majority of ballots for president, setting up a Nov. 26 runoff between the top two vote-getters, Alvaro Noboa, Ecuador's wealthiest man, and Correa, an economist who has been heavily critical of U.S. policy in Latin America.

With 53 percent of the vote counted Tuesday afternoon, Correa was tied with Noboa, each with about 25 percent.

Sunday night a computerized "quick count" of paper ballots showed Noboa taking a surprising 4-point lead over Correa, spurring Correa and his supporters to cry fraud.

"The dictatorship of a Mafia has us cornered," Correa told Channel 8 television on Monday, insisting he and his vice-presidential running-mate, Lenin Moreno, had won Sunday's election.

"They are committing a fraud against us," Correa said.

An observer mission from the Organization of American States disagreed Tuesday.

"In this stage there aren't any accusations nor evidence of fraud," OAS mission chief Rafael Bielsa told reporters.

Correa had earlier accused Bielsa of negligence and demanded he step down as head of the OAS mission.

The electoral tribunal pulled the plug on the US$5.2 million (€4.2 million) contract it had with the Brazilian company, E-Vote, hired to carry out the quick count, after its computer system crashed with some 30 percent of ballots still uncounted.

"There was a technical failure in the transmission of preliminary electoral results by the company E-Vote and its people have acknowledged and assumed responsibility for it," Cazar said.

Correa, a tall, charismatic firebrand, who had been favored to lead Sunday's voting, pledges a "citizens' revolution" against the discredited political system. An admirer and avowed friend of Venezuelan leftist President Hugo Chavez, Correa, 43, has echoed his anti-U.S. rhetoric and alarmed Wall Street with threats to default on foreign debt payments.

Ecuadoreans have driven the last three elected presidents from power and Correa appeals to voters as a fresh face in a field of established politicians.

Standing in his way is banana tycoon Noboa, 55, a pro-business candidate who favors stronger ties with Washington.

Merrill Lynch on Tuesday said it had raised its recommendation for investment in Ecuador after bonds rallied sharply on Noboa's strong showing in the ballot.

"Not only may Rafael Correa, who threatened a possible debt default, not win the second round, but even if he were to win, it would likely be with a weaker mandate," Merrill Lynch said in a report.


QUITO, Ecuador Ecuador's top election official on Tuesday dismissed allegations that the breakdown of the computerized "quick count" in Sunday's first-round vote indicates fraud.

"Things should not be confused nor distorted in an unhealthy or ill-intentioned way. There has been no intention of fraud in the Supreme Electoral Tribunal," the organization's president Xavier Cazar told Radio Universal.

Rafael Correa, a leftist candidate who is heading into a presidential runoff, had alleged the computer crash was not a technical failure but part of a scheme to cost him votes.

Preliminary results show none of the 13 candidates Sunday gained a majority of ballots for president, setting up a Nov. 26 runoff between the top two vote-getters, Alvaro Noboa, Ecuador's wealthiest man, and Correa, an economist who has been heavily critical of U.S. policy in Latin America.

With 53 percent of the vote counted Tuesday afternoon, Correa was tied with Noboa, each with about 25 percent.

Sunday night a computerized "quick count" of paper ballots showed Noboa taking a surprising 4-point lead over Correa, spurring Correa and his supporters to cry fraud.

"The dictatorship of a Mafia has us cornered," Correa told Channel 8 television on Monday, insisting he and his vice-presidential running-mate, Lenin Moreno, had won Sunday's election.

"They are committing a fraud against us," Correa said.

An observer mission from the Organization of American States disagreed Tuesday.

"In this stage there aren't any accusations nor evidence of fraud," OAS mission chief Rafael Bielsa told reporters.

Correa had earlier accused Bielsa of negligence and demanded he step down as head of the OAS mission.

The electoral tribunal pulled the plug on the US$5.2 million (€4.2 million) contract it had with the Brazilian company, E-Vote, hired to carry out the quick count, after its computer system crashed with some 30 percent of ballots still uncounted.

"There was a technical failure in the transmission of preliminary electoral results by the company E-Vote and its people have acknowledged and assumed responsibility for it," Cazar said.

Correa, a tall, charismatic firebrand, who had been favored to lead Sunday's voting, pledges a "citizens' revolution" against the discredited political system. An admirer and avowed friend of Venezuelan leftist President Hugo Chavez, Correa, 43, has echoed his anti-U.S. rhetoric and alarmed Wall Street with threats to default on foreign debt payments.

Ecuadoreans have driven the last three elected presidents from power and Correa appeals to voters as a fresh face in a field of established politicians.

Standing in his way is banana tycoon Noboa, 55, a pro-business candidate who favors stronger ties with Washington.

Merrill Lynch on Tuesday said it had raised its recommendation for investment in Ecuador after bonds rallied sharply on Noboa's strong showing in the ballot.

"Not only may Rafael Correa, who threatened a possible debt default, not win the second round, but even if he were to win, it would likely be with a weaker mandate," Merrill Lynch said in a report.

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