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QUITO, Ecuador — Rafael Correa was easily elected to a third term as Ecuador’s president Sunday, topping his nearest challenger by nearly 40 percentage points, according to an exit poll and partial results.

Correa, a dynamic but polemical leftist economist, has raised living standards for the lower classes and widened their social safety net but has been criticized as intolerant of dissent.

His top opponent out of a field of eight candidates was former Banco de Guayaquil executive president Guillermo Lasso. The exit poll by the company Cedatos-Gallup showed Correa beating Lasso 61 percent to 20 percent.

Lasso conceded shortly after polls closed.

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A beaming Correa appeared on state TV hugging jubilant supporters at the Carondelet presidential palace less than an hour after polls closed. He addressed a cheering crowd from its balcony.

‘‘This victory is yours. It belongs to our families, to our wife, to our friends, our neighbors, the entire nation,’’ Correa said.

The 48-year-old president has brought uncharacteristic political stability to this oil-exporting nation of 14.6 million people that cycled through seven presidents in the decade before he first took office in 2007.

He won reelection in 2009 after voters approved a constitutional rewrite that mandated a new ballot, and he would be legally barred from running again after a victory Sunday.

Associated Press