Julian Assange’s fate is currently hanging in the balance of the Ecuadorian election.
We believe Assange is fundamentally a force of good. Let’s hope Moreno holds on for a victory.
For Ecuador’s 15 million inhabitants, Sunday’s presidential election runoff will pose a fundamental question: whether to continue with a leftwing government that has reduced poverty but also brought environmental destruction and authoritarian censorship, or to take a chance on a pro-business banker who promises economic growth but is accused of siphoning money to offshore accounts.
But they are not the only ones for whom the result will be critically important. Thousands of miles away, in the country’s tiny embassy in central London, Julian Assange will be watching closely to see if his four and a half years of cramped asylum could be coming to an abrupt, enforced end.
Guillermo Lasso, the businessman and leading opposition candidate, has vowed that if he wins, the WikiLeaks founder’s time in the embassy will be up. Lasso has said he would “cordially ask Señor Assange to leave within 30 days of assuming a mandate”, because his presence in the Knightsbridge embassy was a burden on Ecuadorian taxpayers.
His government opponent, Lenin Moreno, has said Assange would remain welcome, albeit with conditions. “We will always be alert and ask Mr Assange to show respect in his declarations regarding our brotherly and friendly countries,” Moreno said.
The most recent polling showed Moreno at least four percentage points ahead of his rival, though earlier polls had Lasso in the lead, and many analysts caution that the results are within the margin of error.
Could this weekend really trigger the beginning of the end for Assange’s extraordinary central London refuge? Neither Lasso’s victory, nor precisely what he would do if he won, are certain (he later softened his position to say Assange’s status would be “reviewed”).