Ecuador indigenous group urges supporters to spoil ballots in presidential vote

FILE PHOTO: Ecuador's presidential candidate Yaku Perez gestures while marching to the prosecutor's office in Quito, Ecuador February 23, 2021. REUTERS/Santiago Arcos

QUITO (Reuters) - Ecuador’s main indigenous advocacy group urged its supporters on Monday to spoil their ballots in an April 11 presidential runoff, after a court denied indigenous candidate Yaku Perez’s request for a recount of first-round election results.

Perez alleges that the February vote - in which he placed third behind leftist economist Andres Arauz and conservative banker Guillermo Lasso - was marred by fraud. He had lagged Lasso by a narrow margin, according to official results.

“We will remain firm in our vision of resistance, and we will establish other mechanisms of struggle to bring forward the country’s popular and social demands,” Ecuador’s CONAIE indigenous grouping said in a statement.

The move could complicate efforts by Arauz, an ally of former president Rafael Correa, and Lasso to win support from the Andean country’s indigenous voters.

If the number of spoilt, or invalidated, ballots exceeds the total number of votes received by the two candidates in the runoff, the whole election is declared null and void under Ecuadorean law.

Perez had asked an electoral court to recount some 20,000 vote tally sheets that he said contained inconsistencies. The court declined his request, arguing it lacked a legal basis.

Official results from the first round showed Arauz won 32.7% of the vote, while Lasso received 19.74% and Perez lagged just behind, on 19.39%. Some 10% of votes cast were declared invalid.

Enrique Pita, vice president of the National Electoral Council, told reporters he did not think the move by Pachakutik, the political arm of CONAIE, would impact the vote.

Indigenous groups in 2019 led mass protests against President Lenin Moreno’s market-friendly reforms.

Reporting by Alexandra Valencia in Quito; Writing by Luc Cohen; Editing by Gareth Jones