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Ecuadorian presidential frontrunner warns of threat to democracy from interference in electoral process

ECUADORIAN leftist presidential candidate Andres Arauz has warned of a threat to democracy from interference in the country’s electoral process ahead of April’s second-round vote.

The Union for Hope (Unes) candidate told a press conference on Sunday that the “interference and grotesque meddling by other state institutions in the electoral function” was a great blow.

He condemned Comptroller General Pablo Celi, who has demanded to inspect the National Electoral Council’s (CNE) computer. 

“We have requested this special review to guarantee the transparency, legal security, and legitimacy of the electoral process,” Mr Celi said, insisting that the process would take no longer than 20 days.

It caused the CNE to pause a recount currently under way after right-wing indigenous candidate Yaku Perez demanded an audit. He has made allegations of fraud in the poll by bankers’ candidate Guillermo Lasso, who was declared runner-up on Sunday.

Mr Arauz said: “Taking copies of the count and recount files is something normal, but taking the computer equipment and impeding the ballot is an attack on democracy.”

The frontrunner in the polls, who won the first round with 32 per cent of the vote, called on the international community and electoral observers to be aware of the threat posed ahead of April’s run-off.

“These are not isolated cases. The Comptroller’s Office previously interfered when it tried to eliminate political movements, among them ours,” he said.

Left-wing organisation Progressive International answered his call with a statement yesterday, backing Mr Arauz in the face of “a backlash against democracy.”

Signed by British MP Jeremy Corbyn and US academic Noam Chomsky, among others, it called on progressive forces to unite in the fight to “restore popular sovereignty in Ecuador and around the world.”

Fears of another Washington-backed coup against democracy in Latin America have been raised by a series of attempts to undermine Mr Arauz by dishonestly linking him to armed Colombian guerrilla movements. Colombian Attorney General Francisco Barbosa flew into Ecuador earlier this month claiming to have “intelligence” that the ELN (the National Liberation Army) had contributed $80,000 (£57,800) to Mr Arauz’s presidential campaign.

It came soon after a video purporting to show ELN guerrilla fighters sending a message of support to the leftist was exposed as a fake.

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