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Last Updated: Monday, 1 October 2007, 05:34 GMT 06:34 UK
Ecuador president claims poll win
Rafael Correa votes in Quito
Mr Correa said the vote would be complex but democratic
Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa has claimed victory in elections for a new constituent assembly.

Official results from the vote are yet to come, but exit polls show Mr Correa's party heading for a strong majority in the new assembly.

The president hopes the 130-member body will dissolve the national Congress, which he says is corrupt and inept, and increase the power of poor people.

But critics say the reforms will focus more power in the president's hands.

Mr Correa's political opponents accuse him of wanting to turn the South American country into a socialist state.

'Confusion'

The 44-year-old president's Alianza Pais party hopes to win more than two-thirds of the vote necessary to implement the changes he has promised.

We accept this triumph with great humility and total responsibility. We know we cannot fail
Ecuador President Rafael Correa

Mr Correa, a former economy minister who took office in January, said he had won a strong mandate.

"We accept this triumph with great humility and total responsibility," he said. "We know we cannot fail."

The impoverished Andean nation has thrown out three previous presidents in the last 10 years, and successive governments have been roundly criticised.

Opposition candidate Gilmar Gutierrez, brother of the ousted President Lucio Gutierrez, said his party would wait for the official results.

But the BBC's South America correspondent Daniel Schweimler says more than 3,200 candidates and a complex voting system has left many voters undecided or simply confused.

Among the candidates are several former beauty queens, a long-haired monk who walks the streets urging voters to take from the rich and a masked crime fighter known as The Punisher who says his face is covered because he is allergic to corruption.

There are evangelical Christians and Marxists, offering an array of measures, including a return of the death penalty and nationalising the country's oil industry.


VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
President Rafael Correa on the 'historic' election



SEE ALSO
Timeline: Ecuador
22 Aug 07 |  Country profiles
Country profile: Ecuador
22 Aug 07 |  Country profiles
Ecuador 'expels World Bank envoy'
26 Apr 07 |  Americas
Ecuador MPs seek Colombia asylum
25 Apr 07 |  Americas
Ecuador leader celebrates 'win'
16 Apr 07 |  Americas
Profile: Ecuador's Rafael Correa
27 Nov 06 |  Americas



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