The 35-year-old son of a banana tycoon, Daniel Noboa, has been elected as Ecuador’s youngest president ever, promising to restore peace and security in a country plagued by a brutal drug war.
Noboa defeated his socialist rival Luisa Gonzalez, who conceded defeat on Sunday night after the electoral authority announced Noboa’s victory with 52% of the vote.
Noboa celebrated his win in his hometown of Olon, in the southwest of the country, where he told his supporters that he would start working “to rebuild a country that has been severely hit by violence, corruption and hatred.”
He also pledged to create jobs, attract foreign investment and improve education for the youth.
Ecuador has been facing a surge of violence in recent years, as rival gangs linked to Mexican and Colombian cartels fight for control of the cocaine trade.
The country has witnessed some of the worst prison massacres in its history, with more than 460 inmates killed since February 2021, many of them beheaded or burned alive.
The violence has also spilled into the streets, with gruesome scenes of headless bodies hanging from bridges and car bombs exploding outside police stations.
In August, one of the presidential candidates, Fernando Villavicencio, a former journalist and anti-corruption activist, was assassinated by gunmen after a campaign speech. He had been polling in second place.
The government declared a state of emergency after Villavicencio’s murder and deployed 100,000 police and soldiers to ensure security during the election.
Both Noboa and Gonzalez campaigned and voted wearing bullet-proof vests and surrounded by heavy security.
Many voters expressed fear and uncertainty about the future of the country, which has also been hit by poverty, unemployment and corruption.
Noboa will only serve for 16 months, until 2025, to complete the term of the outgoing president Guillermo Lasso, who dissolved congress in May to avoid impeachment for alleged embezzlement and called for a snap election.
Noboa is the son of Álvaro Noboa, one of Ecuador’s richest men and a five-time presidential candidate himself. Noboa has a degree in business administration from New York University and two master’s degrees from Harvard University and George Washington University. He has worked as an executive in his father’s banana exporting company.
He ran as a centrist candidate under the newly formed National Democratic Action alliance, which includes parties from the center and left of the political spectrum. He calls himself “center-left” but embraces neoliberal economic policies.
Gonzalez was the chosen successor of former socialist president Rafael Correa, who ruled from 2007 to 2017 and is now living in exile in Belgium to avoid an eight-year prison sentence for graft. She is a lawyer and a former legislator who advocates for social justice and environmental protection.
She congratulated Noboa on his victory and said that “this is democracy.” She also offered her support for the new president and urged him to work for the well-being of all Ecuadorians.
With 13 lawmakers in his corner out of 137 in parliament, Noboa will not have an absolute majority backing his legislative projects, and with only 16 months in office, will face an uphill battle to push through any reforms, analysts say.
Voting is compulsory for 13.4 million eligible voters in the country of about 18 million, and the election authority said turnout was above 82 percent.
After images on social media showed a person appearing to fill out multiple ballots in favor of Noboa, the head of the National Electoral Commission, Diana Atamaint, promised an “immediate” investigation.