Ecuador’s nail-biting presidential election is likely heading to a second round in April, authorities said on Tuesday, as tensions escalate in the Opec nation.

Lenín Boltaire Moreno, the anointed candidate of leftist president Rafael Correa, would face Guillermo Lasso, a conservative former banker.

With 95.5 per cent of votes counted, Mr Moreno led with 39.2 per cent. Mr Lasso had 28.3 per cent. Trailing behind was Cynthia Viteri, a former centre-right lawmaker, with 16.2 per cent of the polls. “The tendency is clear and established,” Juan Pablo Pozo, who heads Ecuador’s electoral authority, said in Quito.

Despite edging ahead, Mr Moreno has so far failed to cross the threshold required to avoid a run-off. If that continues, there would be a second round, Mr Pozo added. Anxieties were rising as protesters gathered outside the country’s electoral body in Quito to demand a faster vote count amid fears of fraud.

The divided opposition may close ranks around Mr Lasso in a run-off. His victory would effectively end Mr Correa’s leftist revolution, dealing another blow to South American left-wing governments, which have been losing ground. On the other hand, a victorious Mr Moreno would mean a continuation of Mr Correa’s policies.

Final results are expected later this week.

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