Factbox - Top opposition candidates in Ecuador's presidential race

  • World
  • Wednesday, 12 Dec 2012

QUITO (Reuters) - High social and infrastructure spending have made Ecuador's President Rafael Correa the favourite to win a February 17 election against a fractured opposition that is fielding seven candidates.

Polls currently show Correa as much as 30 percentage points ahead of the nearest challenger, although most voters have not made up their minds.

To avoid a runoff election, the winner will have to take more than 50 percent of the vote or win more than 40 percent and beat the runner-up by at least 10 percentage points.

Here are some details on the top opposition candidates:

GUILLERMO LASSO - Polls show the former head of Banco de Guayaquil, Ecuador's No. 2 bank, is the top challenger to Correa. The most recent survey by pollster Cedatos shows him taking 21 percent of the vote.

He is a fresh face in the political arena who the vast majority of voters - many of whom are undecided - say they would consider voting for.

But Lasso, 57, may face stigma associated with being a banker. Ecuadoreans blame banks for a 1999 financial crisis that forced the country to adopt the dollar as Ecuador's currency the following year. Hundreds of thousands lost part of their savings.

Lasso is running on a platform of boosting job creation by lowering taxes and providing incentives to private investors.

LUCIO GUTIERREZ - A former army major who took part in a coup that overthrew Jamil Mahuad in 2000, Gutierrez was elected president in 2002 but was deposed after social unrest in 2005.

He leads the Patriotic Society Party, which has strong support in Amazon areas and has a disciplined campaign team. Gutierrez, 55, also is seen as having strong support within the army and the police.

Cedatos shows him receiving 9 percent of the vote, 12 points behind Lasso. Pollsters have recognized, however, that public opinion research tends to underestimate his popularity.

ALBERTO ACOSTA - An economist and academic, Acosta was a close friend and a political ally of Correa until the two parted ways in 2008.

Acosta is a founder of the ruling Alianza Pais party and the former head of an assembly that rewrote Ecuador's constitution in 2008. He has accused Correa of betraying the party's socialist roots and "moving right."

He heads an alliance of leftist parties and grassroots movements that is critical of Correa's drive to attract foreign investment into the oil and mining sectors, which he considers a threat to the environment.

He is likely to chip away support for Correa among minority groups including indigenous people in the Amazon and the Andes and people of African descent in coastal areas. Cedatos' latest poll shows him receiving 8 percent of the vote.

ALVARO NOBOA - A wealthy banana magnate well-known throughout Ecuador, Noboa is running for president for the fifth time. Polls showing him with close to 1 percent of the vote.

Noboa points out that polls showed him trailing in the 2006 election but he nonetheless defeated Correa in the first round vote.

The line between Noboa's party, PRIAN, and his companies is blurry. Some executives also are leading party members.

Noboa will campaign on a platform of higher education spending and support for the private sector. He is known for his eccentric campaign style, which has included offers to raffle off houses and company jobs to supporters. He chose his wife, Annabella Azin, as his running mate.

Noboa is battling authorities over a multi-million dollar back tax payment the government says one of his companies owes. He says the claim is absurd and part of a campaign of political persecution meant to keep him out of politics.

(Reporting By Eduardo Garcia; Editing by Kieran Murray and Bill Trott)

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