Car horns in Quito blared in celebration Sunday as banana empire heir Daniel Noboa, 35, became violence-riddled Ecuador’s youngest president-elect ever.
With 90 per cent of votes counted, the electoral authority announced Noboa as the victor.
Moments earlier, socialist rival Luisa Gonzalez conceded defeat and offered her “profound congratulations” to Noboa, “because this is democracy.”
Addressing supporters in Quito, Gonzales also said she would not be claiming fraud.
Ecuadorans voted for 10 hours Sunday with no reports of violence in a country gripped by a bloody drug war and a rash of political assassinations that cut short the bid of a popular candidate.
Some 100,000 police and soldiers were deployed to keep the vote safe, while Noboa and Gonzalez both cast their votes in bulletproof vests just weeks after a rival was murdered.
Both candidates had vowed to prioritize the escalating violence.
“May we elect the best president because (he or she) will govern a country that is destroyed… to address all these problems such as insecurity,” Indigenous voter Ramiro Duchitanga told AFP in Cuenca in Ecuador’s south.
“It is a critical election,” added Freddy Escobar, a popular 49-year-old singer, citing crime as his main worry. “I am voting in fear, not knowing what will happen.”
The main concerns of Ecuadorans, according to recent polls, are crime and violence in a country where the murder rate quadrupled in the four years to 2022.
– Drug violence –
Long a peaceful haven between major cocaine exporters Colombia and Peru, Ecuador has seen violence explode in recent years as enemy gangs with links to Mexican and Colombian cartels vie for control.
The fighting has seen at least 460 inmates massacred in prisons since February 2021 — many beheaded or burned alive in mass riots.
The bloodbath has spilled into the streets, with gangs dangling headless corpses from city bridges and detonating car bombs outside police stations in a show of force.
In August, the violence claimed the life of anti-graft and anti-cartel journalist and presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio, mowed down in a barrage of submachine-gun fire after a campaign speech.
He had been polling in second place.
A state of emergency was declared after Villavicencio’s assassination, and Noboa and Gonzalez both campaigned, and voted, with heavy security details.
– ‘Change this country’ –
Noboa was elected to only 16 months in office — completing the term of incumbent Guillermo Lasso, who called a snap vote to avoid possible impeachment for alleged embezzlement.
He can run again for the 2025-29 presidential term, and the one after that.
Both runoff candidates were relative unknowns.
Noboa is the son of one of Ecuador’s richest men, who himself has five failed presidential bids to his name.
Ecuador has a poverty rate of 27 percent, with a quarter of the population unemployed or holding down an informal job.
Opinion polls list unemployment as voters’ second concern.
Noboa has promised “progress for everyone” and vowed to prioritize job creation.
Gonzalez was the handpicked candidate of socialist ex-president Rafael Correa, who governed from 2007 to 2017 and lives in exile in Belgium to avoid serving an eight-year prison term for graft — another major concern in the country.
From eight candidates, Gonzalez took the most votes in the first round in August with 34 per cent, followed by Noboa with 23 percent.
Noboa will not an absolute majority backing his projects in the legislature, 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 16.9 million.
After images on social media showed a person appearing to fill out multiple ballots in favour of Noboa, the head of the National Electoral Commission, Diana Atamaint, promised an “immediate” investigation.
Army Plans Review Of Operational Engagement
The Nigerian Army will be evaluating and comprehensively reviewing ongoing operational engagements in all the theatres of operations across the six geo-political zones.
This will enable the service to make decisions that will help in effectively tackling the security challenges bedeviling the country.
A statement on Friday by the Director, Army Public Relations, Brig. Gen. Nwachukwu Onyema noted that the service would be embarking on the review among others at the Chief of Army Staff’s conference slated to hold in Maiduguri between December 10 and 16.
The statement partly read, “Nigerian Army will take stock, evaluate and comprehensively review ongoing operational engagements of the NA in all theatres of operations across the six geo-political zones within the year, among other key agenda.
“This will provide the NA an in-depth insight to make far-reaching decisions that will be result-oriented towards achieving its set objective of addressing multifaceted security challenges in the country.”
Onyema said the week-long conference is an important annual event in the calendar of the Nigerian Army due to its significance to National security, peace, and stability.
He added that the event would also allow the Chief of Amry Staff, Lt. Gen. Taoreed Lagbaja to have an interaction with the field commanders.
The statement stated, “The Conference would also create an opportunity for the COAS to have face-to-face interaction with the General Officers Commanding, Field Commanders, and other senior officers to provide requisite guidance on enhancing NA operations and activities. The conference will be declared open on Monday 11 December 2023.
“The President, Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, His Excellency, Bola Tinubu is expected to grace the occasion as the Special Guest of Honour.
“The Opening Ceremony will feature an address to troops of Joint Task Force North East Operation Hadin Kai inspection of the ongoing Nigerian Army Reference Hospital Maiduguri and laying of the foundation stone of Headquarters 7 Division by the Special Guest of Honour. “
Putin To Run Again For President In 2024
Russian leader Vladimir Putin has decided to run in presidential elections next March, news agencies reported Friday, allowing the Kremlin leader to extend his decades-long grip on power.
Putin told Lieutenant Colonel Artyom Zhoga, a Russian military officer, about his decision to participate in the upcoming vote following an awards ceremony for army personnel at the Kremlin, state-run news agencies reported.
”The president has said that he will run for president of the Russian Federation,” Zhoga was cited as saying by state-run news agency RIA Novosti.
”We all—I say this with confidence—in the reunited territories, all of Russia, support him. We are very happy that he heard our request” to participate, Zhoga added, referring to the Ukrainian territories Moscow claims as its own.
Putin, however, has yet to make a formal announcement that he will compete in the vote scheduled to take place between March 15 and 17 next year.
“Our president has never avoided and does not avoid responsible decisions,” said Valentina Matvienko, the head of Russia’s upper house of parliament.
“And today he has once again confirmed this. He confirmed that at the moment of a historic choice and a historic challenge,” she added.
Putin will not face any major challengers and will likely seek as big a mandate as possible to conceal domestic discord over the Ukraine conflict, analysts say.
Rockets Fired At US Embassy In Baghdad Amid Gaza War
Salvoes of rockets were launched Friday at the US embassy in Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone, the mission said, the latest in a flurry of such attacks amid the Israel-Hamas war.
“A multi-rocket attack was launched at US and Coalition forces in the vicinity of Union III and the Baghdad embassy complex” without causing any reported casualties or damage, a US official said.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility.
The United States leads an international coalition battling jihadists in Iraq and neighbouring Syria, and its forces have come under repeated attacks in recent weeks.
The attacks come against the backdrop of the more than two-month war between US ally Israel and the Iran-backed Palestinian Islamist militant group Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
In a statement, the US embassy said “two salvoes of rockets” were fired at the mission compound at around 4.15am (0115 GMT).
“Indications are the attacks were initiated by Iran-aligned militias,” said a US spokesperson.
“We again call on the government of Iraq… to do all in its power to protect diplomatic and coalition partner personnel and facilities.
“We reiterate that we reserve the right to self-defence and to protect our personnel anywhere in the world,” the spokesperson added.
Since mid-October, there have been dozens of rocket or drone strikes by pro-Iran groups against US or coalition forces in Iraq as well as in Syria.
But Friday’s rocket attack was the first against the US embassy in Baghdad since the Israel-Hamas war began on October 7, raising regional tensions and fears of a wider conflict.
An Iraqi security official said “Three Katyusha rockets targeting the American embassy fell close to the Green Zone,” near the river Tigris. They spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorised to speak to the media.
There are roughly 2,500 US troops in Iraq and about 900 in Syria as part of efforts to prevent a resurgence of the Islamic State group.
– Around 80 attacks –
After the end of a seven-day pause in the war between Israel and Iran-backed Hamas last week, pro-Iran groups resumed their attacks against US and coalition forces, justifying their actions by pointing to American support for Israel.
In Iraq, most were claimed by the Islamic Resistance in Iraq, a loose formation of armed groups affiliated with the Hashed al-Shaabi coalition of former paramilitaries who are now integrated into Iraq’s regular armed forces.
US forces have struck Iran-linked targets in both Iraq and Syria in response.
On Sunday a US military official speaking on condition of anonymity confirmed a “self-defence strike” was carried out in northern Iraq against a drone launch site “in the vicinity of Kirkuk” against “an imminent threat”.
The Islamic Resistance in Iraq later announced the death of “five martyrs”.
That strike came a day after Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani said during a phone call with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken that Baghdad rejected “any attack on Iraqi territory”, according to a statement from Sudani’s office.
Sudani also said the Iraqi government was committed “to ensuring the safety of the international coalition advisers present in Iraq”.
On Wednesday, a US military official said a drone had targeted Western troops at the Ain al-Asad Airbase in western Iraq, but there were no casualties or damage.
In total, Washington has counted at least 78 attacks since October 17 against its forces in Iraq and Syria, 10 days after the start of the war between Israel and Hamas.
The Israel-Hamas war began with the Palestinian militant group’s unprecedented attack on Israeli soil, which killed around 1,200 people and saw about 240 people captured as hostages, according to Israeli officials.
In response, Israel vowed to destroy Hamas and launched a large-scale military offensive that has killed 17,177 people in Gaza, according to the territory’s Hamas government.
The attacks against US personnel included rocket fire and drone strikes, and have left at least 60 US personnel wounded, the Pentagon says.
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