The brazen shooting of a leading presidential candidate in Ecuador has boosted contenders advocating a harsher stance towards criminals in a country battling the ravages of organized crime. Ecuador will hold a snap election on Sunday, called by President Guillermo Lasso after he dissolved the opposition-dominated Congress in May to avoid an impeachment trial. Security was already the focus of the vote, as the once-peaceful nation has become a hub for the global drug trade, sparking brutal violence between gangs. However, the gunning down of one of the presidential frontrunners, the journalist Fernando Villavicencio, as he left a campaign event in the capital last week, could impact the outcome of the vote, analysts say. “The problem of insecurity and organized crime that Ecuador is going through was already the main concern for the majority of the population,” said Paolo Moncagatta, dean of the social sciences department at the University of San Francisco in Quito. He said the murder would “strengthen the candidates with a hardline stance.” According to opinion polls carried out before his death, Villavicencio was in second place. Leading the polls was Luisa Gonzalez, a 45-year-old lawyer close to leftist former president Rafael Correa (2007-2017). Correa was sentenced to eight years in jail after an investigation by Villavicencio into corruption, and fled to Belgium where he has been living in exile for six years. With the election just days away, further opinion polls are banned, however Gonzalez told AFP internal polls showed she had lost support.