* Two exit polls give him win
* Fractured opposition fielded seven candidates
* Correa's triumph a boost for Latin American left
By Brian Ellsworth and Alexandra Valencia
QUITO, Feb 17 Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa
claimed a re-election victory on Sunday that would allow him to
strengthen state control over the OPEC nation's economy and
gives a timely boost to Latin America's alliance of socialist
Correa won 61 percent of the vote compared with 21 percent
for former banker Guillermo Lasso, the strongest showing of the
seven opposition candidates in the race, according to an exit
poll by private firm Opinion Publica.
A separate exit poll by the firm Cedatos showed Correa
winning 59 percent of the vote versus 20 percent for Lasso.
"Nobody can stop this revolution," said a jubilant Correa
from the balcony of the presidential palace above a crowd of
supporters in Quito. "The colonial powers are not in charge
anymore, you can be sure that in this revolution it's
Ecuadoreans who are in charge."
The electoral authority was expected to release an official
quick-count by 7:00 p.m. EST (0000 GMT) based on 30 percent of
the votes cast.
Correa, a pugnacious U.S.-trained economist, wants to
continue boosting the state's role in the OPEC nation's economy
and strengthening the leftist ALBA bloc of Latin American
nations that openly oppose the United States.
The only Ecuadorean president in the past 20 years to
complete a full term in office, Correa is admired for bringing
political stability to a nation where leaders had been
frequently toppled by violent street protests or military coups.
"He has breathed new life into the country with the
infrastructure and social programs. He has allowed the country
to recover its dignity," said Rosa Patino, 40, a municipal
worker in Quito.
Opposition leaders call Correa a dictator in the making who
is quashing free speech through hostile confrontation with the
media and squelching free enterprise through heavy taxation and
constant regulatory changes.
His success hinged in part on high oil prices that allowed
for hefty government spending, including providing cash handouts
to 2 million people, and spurred solid economic growth.
Correa is now on track for a decade in office, rare
stability in a country where three presidents were pushed from
office by coups or street protests in the decade before Correa
took power in 2007.
He is already the longest-serving president since the return
to democracy in the 1970s following a military dictatorship.
"Instead of a weakening of our power, what we have is a
consolidation of support," he said at a news conference.
Correa hopes to diversify the economy away from oil and win
over investors who turned their backs on Ecuador after he
defaulted on $3.2 billion in bonds and forced oil companies to
sign contracts giving more revenue to the government.
Investors will be watching Correa's new term for signs he is
willing to compromise to bring in investment needed to raise
stagnant oil production, boost the promising but still nascent
mining sector, and expand power generation.
The other six opposition candidates include former Correa
ally Alberto Acosta, former President Lucio Gutierrez and banana
magnate and five-time presidential candidate Alvaro Noboa.
Ecuadoreans also chose a new Congress on Sunday.
The ruling Alianza Pais party was expected to win a majority
of the legislative seats, up from around 42 percent.
That would let Correa push ahead with controversial laws
including a plan to create a state watchdog to regulate
television and newspaper content, without having to negotiate
The results of the vote for Congress are not expected to be
known for several days.
Correa spent weeks on the campaign trail, from indigenous
villages of the Andean highlands to urban slums in the bustling
port city of Guayaquil, singing and dancing to play up an image
of youthful energy.
An avid cyclist, Correa filmed one campaign spot showing him
changing out of a sharp suit into biking clothes and then riding
his bike over mountain peaks and past tropical fishing villages
to show the improvement of roads under his leadership.
Correa never shies away from a fight, be it with
international bondholders, oil companies, local bankers, the
Catholic Church or media that criticize his policies.
His criticism of the U.S. "empire" and his clashes with
foreign investors and the World Bank have fueled Correa's
popularity as a strong-minded leader who stands up to foreign
powers that many say meddled in Ecuador's affairs for decades.