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Ecuadoran Presidential Elections Appears Headed for Run-Off - 2002-10-21

The presidential election in Ecuador looks to go to a second-round run-off, with the possibility of a coup leader in the final running to become Ecuador's next president.

With nearly half of votes counted by Sunday night, coup leader Colonel Lucio Gutierrez was leading a pack of several candidates, with nearly 19 percent of votes cast.

Closely following, with 18 percent, was Ecuador's richest man, Alvaro Noboa, who lost the 1998 run-off against former president Jamil Mahuad.

In January, 2000, Mr. Gutierrez helped lead an Indian insurrection that resulted in a short-lived ruling trio composed of himself, Indian leader Antonio Vargas and a supreme court judge. In just hours, it was replaced by the administration of Mr. Mahuad's then-vice-president Gustavo Noboa, who was not a candidate in this election. Mr. Vargas was a candidate, this time, but did not poll among the several near the top.

Socialist Party Congressman Leon Roldos had 16 percent of votes cast. Former President Rodrigo Borja had 15. Xavier Neira and Jacobo Bucaram had 13 and 10 percent respectively.

After the short coup in 2000, Colonel Gutierrez was jailed. but later was granted amnesty. He founded his political party, calling it the January 21 Patriotic Society, referring to the coup.

However, he dismisses comparisons with populist Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who led a botched coup before winning office at the ballot box. Colonel Gutierrez finds his backing among leftist groups. Mr. Noboa finds favor from Ecuador's poor masses.