Ecuador's President Alfredo Palacio has withdrawn from the race for the WHO director-generalship, leaving 12 others to contest the November election. Ecuador's Ministry of Foreign Affairs cited 'internal affairs' as the reason for Dr Palacio's withdrawal. 'I regret to inform you that Ecuador has decided to withdraw the candidature of President Palacio, for the post of director-general of the World Health Organisation, due to internal affairs,' said Lourdes Puma, director-general of multilateral policies and international organisations at the ministry. Dr Palacio, 67, is a cardiologist who was vice-president when his predecessor, Lucio Gutierrez, was ousted by Congress in April last year amid violent protests against his rule. As part of his WHO election manifesto, Dr Palacio had called for the strengthening of WHO regional units and to develop health models to meet the special needs of countries. Dr Palacio said the WHO should continue to work as 'a universal body responsible for the prevention and alleviation of health problems'. His withdrawal from the race was expected to strengthen the campaign of Mexico's Health Minister Julio Frenk Mora, considered a favourite. Also among the major contenders for the job are former Hong Kong director of health Margaret Chan Fung Fu-chun, nominated by China, and Japan's Shigeru Omi, the WHO regional director for Western Pacific which includes the mainland and Hong Kong. A 34-member WHO executive board will shortlist five of the 12 contenders in secret ballots between November 6 and 8. The board will whittle the five further until one gets a simple majority of the vote. The candidate will be voted on by the 192 member-states on November 9 in Geneva. The elections are being held to name a successor to Lee Jong-wook who died in May. He served nearly three years of a five-year term.