Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa slammed the controversial polling firm Cedatos Sunday for misleading voters in the presidential race and creating a false narrative that whipped up opposition claims of electoral fraud and fed into a specter of violence, arguing that the pollster should be held responsible for its actions.
Correa said that the elections results, which saw a win for his Alianza Pais party's candidate Lenin Moreno over right-wing former banker Guillermo Lasso by 2 percent, argued that Cedatos will have to answer for disseminating false information with its exit poll that projected a win for Lasso by more than 6 percent.
"It has been confirmed that Cedatos lied. They will have to respond and take responsibility for what they did," Correa told journalists while leaving Hotel Quito, where Alianza Pais supporters gathered to watch preliminary results come in after polls closed Sunday. "They can't play with the good faith of citizens, generate violence, uncertainty."
The president added that there could be possible legal consequences for what appeared to be manipulation of public opinion.
As polls closed at 5:00 p.m. local time Sunday, Cedatos published an exit poll projecting a win for Lasso with 53.02 percent over Moreno's 46.98 percent. The projected outcome contrasted with another exit poll by Perfiles de Opinion, which put Moreno at 52.2 percent and Lasso at 47.8 percent — much closer to the official results of 51.16 for Moreno and 48.84 for Lasso with 99 percent of the vote counted.
As commentators noted that the diverging exit polls underlined the importance of waiting for official results from the National Electoral Council, known as CNE, to call the election, Lasso was quick to claim victory, predictably whipping up supporters to call fraud in the event of a loss.
The Cedatos exit poll came after controversy swirled around the pollster in the final weeks of the election campaign, when it repeatedly released rogue data that contradicted the findings of other polls and came under fire for its links to Lasso.
According to a leak published last month by Data Certero including receipts for payments to the pollster, Cedatos was funded by Livercostas, which is allegedly linked to Banco de Guayaquil, of which Lasso was formerly the executive president and largest shareholder. Vice president of the National Assembly, Rosana Alvarado, of the governing Alianza Pais party, submitted a formal complaint to the attorney general’s office over the revelations, slamming Cedatos' activities as "manipulation" deserving of investigation.
Out of the five CNE-authorized pollsters, Cedatos was the only one to project a win for Lasso in the weeks leading up to Sunday's vote. In the final round of polls in the week before election day, Cedatos numbers also predicted a win for Moreno.
During his victory speech in Quito, Moreno also blasted the manager of Cedatos, Angel Polibio Cordova, for his actions in light of the misleading exit poll.
"Knowing that they were going to lose, they exposed Ecuadoreans to a confrontation by issuing figures that are not real and giving an advantage to the banker Guillermo Lasso," said Moreno.
As official election results from the National Electoral Council, known as CNE, demonstrated a lead for Moreno, Lasso referenced the Cedatos poll to hint at accusations of election fraud, saying he planned to demand a recount and call supporters to the streets to defend their votes from being "robbed."
Before polls closed on Sunday, Lasso's running mate Andres Paez promoted an opposition gathering outside the CNE in Quito, stirring up expectations that the opposition would swiftly call fraud in the election if Moreno won as predicted.
During the demonstrations, opposition protesters broke through the police line, attempting to approach the CNE. According to reports in local media, one journalist was injured at the height of the tension in the opposition demonstrations, but later in the night the crowds thinned and left the site.
Correa criticized outbreaks of violence among Lasso supporters gathered outside the CNE offices in Quito and Guayaquil. "They want to achieve by force with their arrogance what they didn't achieve at the polls," he told reporters at Hotel Quito.
With 99 percent of the ballots counted, Lenin Moreno and his vice presidential candidate Jorge Glas won the election with 51.16 percent of the votes against Guillermo Lasso and Andres Paez with 48.84 percent.