Assange asylum winner in Ecuador election
Greg Toppo, Pindostan Today, Apr 2 2017
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange will likely be able to remain at the Ecuadorean Embassy in London after voters in Ecuador on Sunday narrowly elected ruling party candidate Lenín Moreno over conservative Guillermo Lasso. Moreno, the political successor to President Rafael Correa, had said he would allow Assange to stay. Correa in 2012 granted asylum to Assange, who hasn’t left the embassy since. Moreno won the presidential runoff with 51% of the vote, according to an official quick count by by the National Electoral Council, although Lasso was seeking a recount after three exit polls showed him winning by a comfortable margin. Minutes earlier, a separate quick count by a respected local group said the race was a technical tie with a difference of less than 0.6% separating the two candidates. The group refrained from saying which candidate was leading until the electoral authorities made their pronouncement. Official results still being counted showed Moreno ahead by two points with 94% of voting acts counted. A Moreno win likely ensures that Assange will be able to continue the unusual arrangement at the cramped London embassy. Lasso, a former banker, had said that within 30 days of taking office he would evict Assange, but would seek to find him asylum elsewhere. In a recent interview, Lasso told the Miami Herald that he would work with other governments to house Assange at another embassy. Lasso said in an email:
We will ask Mr Assange, very politely, to leave our embassy, in absolute compliance with international conventions and protocols, (and) we vow to take all the steps necessary so that another embassy will take him in and protect his rights.
In the five years Assange has been in the embassy, Correa’s administration hasn’t been able to figure out how to move him to Ecuador amid heavy police scrutiny in London. Heading into Sunday’s election, Moreno and Lasso were virtually tied in the polls. A Mar 21 poll by firm Cedatos, which accurately predicted the first-round result, put Moreno ahead with 52% for the first time since its runoff surveys began, AP reported, yet as many as 16% of voters said they were still undecided. Moreno’s lead was within the poll’s margin of error. In the race’s final weeks, Moreno rose in polls as he and Correa cast Lasso as a wealthy, out-of-touch politician who profited from the country’s 1999 banking crisis.