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Monday, 21 October, 2002, 07:26 GMT 08:26 UK
Ecuador faces battle of outsiders
Alvaro Noboa (R) celebrates his second-place result live on TV
Both first-round winners are political outsiders
Results from Ecuador's elections point to a run-off on 24 November between two political outsiders - a former coup leader and a banana tycoon.

With 87% of the vote counted, former army colonel Lucio Gutierrez was in the lead on just over 19%, trailed by Alvaro Noboa, Ecuador's wealthiest man, on more than 17%.

Former coup-leader Lucio Gutierrez
Gutierrez has cited Jesus Christ as his political model
Socialist Leon Roldos - their nearest rival in the 11-candidate race, said to be the country's closest ever - stood at just under 16%.

The winner will inherit an oil-rich state with a growing economy but one where discontent with the authorities is rife.

The BBC's Peter Greste says the result, which has still to be ratified by the supreme election court, marks a defeat for Ecuador's traditional parties and a victory for populism.

Chavez factor

Mr Gutierrez led a successful coup against President Jamil Mahuad in 2000 which resulted in the caretaker presidency of Gustavo Noboa - no relation to Alvaro Noboa.

"Not only did I take first place, I'm also certain I will win in the run-off and revive hope for change in our country," he told the French news agency AFP.

President Gustavo Noboa casts his vote
The outgoing president did not stand in the election
Our correspondent says his success invites uncomfortable comparisons with Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez - the former soldier and leftist coup-leader who went on to take office democratically.

Both Mr Gutierrez and Alvaro Noboa, head of a banana empire, lack meaningful political experience and business analysts already fear capital flight as a result of the vote.

Past presidents
Abdala Bucaram, who called himself "the Madman", was declared mentally unfit by Congress and deposed in 1997
Jamil Mahuad was deposed in 2000 after junior army officers and hundreds of Indians invaded Congress
The elections are the first since the coup in January 2000, when an Indian uprising toppled President Mahuad.

Since 1996, Ecuador has had five presidents and now has one of the highest costs of living in Latin America while over half the population lives in poverty.

The nation of 12 million is still ruled by a Spanish-descended elite despite its people being overwhelmingly mixed-race.

But the defeat of the opinion polls' favourite in the race, former President Rodrigo Borja, effectively marks the end of traditional rule in Ecuador.

Results for parliamentary and local elections also held on Sunday were not immediately available.

'Worthless bunch'

Voters interviewed ahead of the poll spoke of their disillusionment with the authorities.

"People are tired of the government," Manuel Padilla, a 47-year-old construction worker living in a slum in the capital, Quito, told Reuters news agency.

"We need jobs but they ignore us. They are thieves."

Jorge Gallego, a 37-year-old lorry driver in Quito, told the Associated Press he would spoil his ballot as the candidates were all "worthless":

"They talk pretty but remember the people only at election time. They go into the streets to kiss babies, smile and shake the hands of ignorant people, to offer them tee-shirts and bags of groceries."

Nonetheless, Ecuador's economy has been growing under the policy of dollarisation - replacing the local currency with the dollar - begun by President Mahuad.

It expanded 5.6% in 2001 - one of Latin America's highest rates - and inflation is expected to fall below 10% by the end of 2002.

No major violations of electoral procedure were reported on Sunday, with police saying that 857 people had been detained for violating the law that bars the sale and consumption of alcohol during elections.

See also:

04 Oct 02 | Business
13 Sep 02 | Business
22 Jan 00 | Americas
17 Jul 02 | Americas
18 Jul 02 | Country profiles
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