Ecuador elects veteran former mayor

SIXTO DURAN BALLEN, the 70-year-old former mayor of Quito, was elected President of Ecuador in Sunday's run-off election after last-minute opinion polls showed him with a comfortable lead over Jaime Nebot Saadi, another right-winger, writes Colin Harding.

Mr Duran, who had stood for president twice before, will replace Rodrigo Borja Cevallos, the Social Democratic incumbent, next month. A US-educated architect and town planner with a reputation for getting things done, Mr Duran presided over the transformation of Quito from a sleepy highland town into a rapidly expanding capital city during the oil-boom years of the mid-1970s. He is committed to introducing free-market reforms in an economy which has much more state ownership and intervention than most Latin American countries.

Mr Duran said immediately after his rival conceded defeat that his first priority would be to cut Ecuador's 50 per cent annual inflation rate by reducing state spending. He will also give priority to attracting foreign investment and privatising state companies.

Mr Nebot, 45, a rabble-rousing street politician from Ecuador's second city, Guayaquil, was defeated everywhere except in his coastal stronghold, where there were sporadic clashes between rival supporters in the run-up to the election. Personality and regional rivalries were more important than policy differences between the candidates, which were minimal.