|Tally Narrower in Presidential Ballot in Ecuador|
By SIMON ROMERO
QUITO, Ecuador, Oct. 17 — The presidential race tightened Tuesday when an official count of ballots showed a conservative banana magnate with a narrower margin over his leftist challenger, opening the race to charges of fraud and putting financial markets on edge.
Álvaro Noboa, one of Ecuador’s wealthiest business executives, had 26.1 percent of the vote while Rafael Correa, an economist with nationalist proposals similar to those of President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, had 23.3 percent, with 73.2 percent of votes counted as of 7:45 p.m.
A preliminary count of 70 percent of votes from the first election round on Sunday had given Mr. Noboa a lead of almost five percentage points over Mr. Correa.
The narrowing of the count led to a brief sell-off of Ecuador’s bonds on Tuesday, with foreign banks concerned over the possibility of a debt default if Mr. Correa were elected president.
Mr. Correa, a foreign-educated former economy minister, has called for greater government control over the oil industry and for the removal of the United States military from an air base in Manta, on the Pacific coast.
The new figures still point to a runoff between the candidates on Nov. 26, as expected.
But tension is increasing as Mr. Correa and his supporters complain of fraud in an earlier electronic count and several technical snags and delays. Election observers from the Organization of American States called for calm after protests over the slowness in compiling returns.
Both Mr. Noboa and Mr. Correa have campaigned as populists, though Mr. Noboa favors closer ties to the United States while Mr. Correa is critical of American political and economic influence in Ecuador.
Mr. Noboa has stepped up attacks on Mr. Correa over his perceived ties to Mr. Chávez, trying to portray him as a Communist. Mr. Correa has criticized Ecuador’s established political parties, claiming Mr. Noboa represents a corrupt economic elite.
The contest could signal a return to political instability in Ecuador, which has had seven presidents in the last decade.