WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange could be forced to find a new home in 30 days as Ecuador prepares for the election of a new president on Sunday.
Ecuador’s president Rafael Correa, who has supported him since he sought asylum inside the London embassy in 2012, has reached the two-term limit as president and will be replaced.
The Andean country’s lead opposition candidate is offering a sharp break with ten years of leftist rule, vowing to remove Assange from the nation’s London embassy, speak out against Venezuela’s socialist government, and likely renegotiate debts with China.
Conservative former banker Guillermo Lasso is the opposition’s frontrunner in Sunday’s presidential election.
Polls suggest the ruling party candidate, paraplegic former Vice President Lenin Moreno, 63, will win but fall just short of enough votes to avoid an April run-off against Lasso, 61.
In an interview Lasso vowed that within one month of taking office in May he would remove Assange from Ecuador’s embassy, where the Australian has been holed up since 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden.
“Ecuador had no business spending a single cent protecting someone who definitely leaked confidential information,” Lasso said.
“I will take on the responsibility of inviting Mr Assange to leave the Ecuadorean embassy at the latest 30 days after the start of our government,” he said.
Assange sought refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy to defy an extradition order to Sweden where he is wanted for questioning over alleged sexual assaults.
His fear was that the US would seek his extradition to face potential charges over the leaking of classified information on his WikiLeaks site.
Here's Ecuador's opposition leader (elections Sunday) saying he'll revoke my asylum after I revealed CIA penetration of the French election. pic.twitter.com/UOQVircHF6
— Julian Assange (@JulianAssange) February 17, 2017
WikiLeaks drumming up support
Amid reports Wikileaks is drumming up support for Assange aahead of the election, Assange conducted a wide-ranging interview with radio station 3AW on Thursday, where he spoke to Neil Mitchell about raising funds for Wikileaks.
He told the radio station that he thought having Trump as US President was “amazing” and that “every day is like Christmas”.
He said it was difficult to earn a living being holed up inside the embassy for five years.
In the wake of the latest developments at the embassy, Assange’s speaking engagements via live video on Sunday may be by telephone hook-up instead.
Life outside the embassy
Asked by WHO Magazine in 2014 what he would do if he could leave the embassy, Assange responded: “Maybe it isn’t helpful to go through every day wishing like that.
“What would I do? I’d continue my work as a publisher and find a place where I could relax with my family and friends out of range of a surveillance camera.”
– with AAP