Ecuador President Rafael Correa officially announced Saturday that he would run for a third term in February elections -- a contest in which he is expected to be the runaway favorite.

"We are in the process of making history, and we will once again carry the citizens' revolution to victory," Correa told thousands of members of his Alianza Pais (Country Alliance) party at a stadium in the capital Quito.

The leftist Correa, who has led the Andean nation of 14 million people since 2007, is currently far ahead in opinion polls, winning 56 percent support among likely voters.

Far behind are right-wing banker Guillermo Lasso at 22 percent and former president Lucio Gutierrez at 23 percent, according to a recent survey carried out by the private Cedatos polling institute.

"We will again take part in the elections, and we will win again," said Correa, whose nomination, as the only candidate for his party, was a formality.

The 49-year-old economist enjoys sweeping popular support for having pushed through key social programs and renegotiated contracts with the South American country's oil companies.

More than 40 percent of Ecuadorans live below the poverty line, and political instability is common here.

But Correa has been criticized for what some say are attacks on press freedoms and he also faces strong opposition from the private sector and some indigenous groups who are against large-scale mining on their ancestral lands.

The Ecuadoran president is known for his criticism of the United States and is close to leftist anti-US firebrand Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. In August, he granted political asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

Correa, who favors a strong state grip on the economy, first took power in 2007 after his election the year before. He was re-elected in 2009 in early elections called for in the country's new constitution.

Lawmakers will also be chosen in the elections on February 17, 2013.