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Monday, 25 November, 2002, 22:18 GMT
Ex-coup leader wins Ecuador election
Lucio Gutierrez
Gutierrez called on Ecuadorians to unify
Former Ecuadorian coup leader Lucio Gutierrez has won the country's presidential election run-off.

The ex-army colonel polled 54.3% of the votes, compared with 45.7% for his rival - billionaire banana magnate Alvaro Noboa.


I have a philosophy of service to the poor, to the neediest

Lucio Gutierrez
His victory secured, Mr Gutierrez announced: "I call Ecuadorians to national unity, because it is only when people are united that they can move forward."

Mr Gutierrez, a self-declared admirer of Venezuela's left-wing President Hugo Chavez, won over Ecuador's impoverished Indians with promises of help and a pledge to stamp out virulent corruption.

The 45-year-old former pentathlete made his name in 2000 when he led a short-lived Indian uprising against President Jamil Mahuad and spent six months in a military prison.

Incumbent President Gustavo Noboa - no relation to Alvaro Noboa - said he expected Mr Gutierrez to come to the presidential palace on Tuesday.

Rank outsider

The BBC's South America correspondent, Peter Greste, says when the election campaign began hardly any political analysts were willing to give Mr Gutierrez even an outside chance.

Ecuadorian Indians
Gutierrez won over Indians with promises of help

Until recently most observers believed he was simply too radical to be elected but in the first round of voting last month Mr Gutierrez surged to the front thanks to a devastating protest vote which tossed out all the candidates from the established parties.

Mr Gutierrez and Mr Noboa - Ecuador's richest man - fought the run-off on similar platforms, promising to spend huge amounts of aid on the country's poorest citizens.

But polls showed Ecuadorians were leaning more towards Mr Gutierrez' image as a strong leader who would fight corruption.

Some $2bn a year gets pilfered from government coffers, and millions of Ecuadorians blame that for leading the country into its current economic mess.

Tough task

Last-minute campaigning was characterised by mutual accusations from the rival candidates of foul play.

Alvaro Noboa
Noboa denied claims of bribery

Mr Noboa's camp alleged Mr Gutierrez beat his wife, while Mr Gutierrez charged Mr Noboa with buying votes as he stood in the polling booth in the capital, Quito.

Mr Noboa depicted Mr Gutierrez as a communist and a threat to democracy, saying he would become a dictator if he was elected.

Mr Gutierrez called Mr Noboa "a little liar", saying, "as an ex-military man, I have a philosophy of service to the poor, to the neediest".

But Mr Gutierrez may have his hands full trying to stay in power.

Our correspondent says Ecuador's political battlefields are notoriously unforgiving and no president in the past decade has survived a full term.

Not only does Mr Gutierrez lack any meaningful political experience, our correspondent says, but he has no established party machine behind him in Congress and he is faced with a massive public debt, poverty running around 60% and high expectations from his supporters.

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 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Tom Gibb
"They've voted in an outsider promising change"
See also:

25 Nov 02 | Americas
04 Oct 02 | Business
21 Oct 02 | Americas
13 Sep 02 | Business
21 Oct 02 | Country profiles
17 Jul 02 | Americas
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