WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange could be facing eviction from his current residence in the Ecuadorian embassy in London—and a potential court date in the U.S.—if Ecuador’s presidential election fails to go his way this week.
Results from Sunday’s election are still too close to call, and as things currently stand, a run-off could be required between Lenin Moreno, a candidate from the ruling left-wing party, and Guillermo Lasso, a conservative former banker who said he’d like to expel Assange from the embassy.
“Ecuador has no business…protecting someone who definitely leaked confidential information,” Lasso told Reuters last week, as he prepared for Sunday’s election. “I will take on the responsibility of inviting Assange to leave the [Ecuadorian] Embassy at the latest 30 days after the start of our government.”
Assange sought political asylum at the embassy in London in 2012, after British authorities ordered his arrest and deportation to Sweden, where he faces sexual assault charges. Assange, who denies the charges, has been living in the embassy under the protection of the Ecuadorian government for the past four years because Britain has not given him safe passage to the South American country.
That situation may change if Lasso wins Ecuador’s presidential election. The conservative banker hopes to improve relations with the U.S. and UK, and said he would ”revise” Assange’s status as an asylum seeker in Ecuador.
Moreno, an ally of the current Ecuadorean government, is favored in the election. But he needs 40% of the vote to avoid a runoff against Lasso. With almost all the votes tallied, he has stalled at just over 39 percent.
Lasso only has 28.4% of the votes, but he is expected to fare much better head-to-head with Moreno, as Lasso would receive the support of smaller opposition parties that ran their own candidates on Sunday.
WikiLeaks and Assange seem to be monitoring the situation closely and tweeted about Ecuador’s election throughout the day. On Monday, WikiLeaks published a statement from Assange’s legal team that urged Ecuador to not backtrack on his political refugee status.
“Ecuador as a state has domestic and international obligations to protect refugees from persecution” the statement read. “Assange faces life in prison or the death sentence in the U.S.”
The whistleblowing organization has long claimed that if Assange is arrested in the UK and deported to Sweden, he could end up being sent to the U.S., where the Department of Justice is still investigating him for leaking classified information.
Ecuador’s National Electoral Council has said that it could take until Thursday to count all of the votes from the first round of voting, as it receives tallies from remote areas of the country and investigates irregularities at some voting centers.
If Moreno gains 40% of the vote, he would become the president outright and Assange would probably continue to receive the protection of the Ecuadorian government.
Ecuadorian opposition parties have asked their followers to stage street protests to prevent potential fraud in the vote count. But election authorities say that it’s normal for the country to take several days to count all votes, and that the long time lapse is only being noticed this time around because of how close this election has turned out.
Manuel Rueda is a correspondent for Fusion, covering Mexico and South America. He travels from donkey festivals, to salsa clubs to steamy places with cartel activity.