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Ecuador tycoon, leftist set for election run-off
Voters were also electing a new 100-member Congress and hundreds of local government posts.
Moderate leftist Leon Roldos, seen by some as the candidate offering stability, came third with around 16 percent of votes, according to early results.
Cracking his belt to show the lashing he wants to give to elites, Correa vows to rewrite the constitution and curb old parties with a "citizen's revolution." He opposes a free trade deal with the United States and wants to oust U.S. troops from Ecuador.
Correa's association with Chavez, promises to disband the discredited Congress and plans to restructure Ecuador's bonds have sent ripples through Wall Street and Washington, which is locked in an ideological standoff with the Venezuelan leader.
A second round between the two candidates would be a bitter contest. Noboa may draw on support from parties such as the Social Christians who see Correa as a threat to their political influence in state institutions, analysts said.
Correa has appealed across the classes by capturing popular disenchantment with Congress. Analysts said he could face a tough time tackling lawmakers over his reforms without a strong popular mandate to push his reformist agenda.
"Noboa looks like he is in a better position for the second round because traditional parties will probably support him," said Adrian Bonilla, director of Ecuador's branch of the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences.
"But it's too difficult to say because this is a very tight race with very different ideologies," he said.
(Additional reporting by Alonso Soto and Mario Naranjo in Quito)