Bolivians elect president one year after Morales resigns

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Bolivians must choose between six candidates for the presidency of their country. They must also elect their vice-president and renew the entire Parliament. KEYSTONE / AP / Martin Mejia sda-ats

This content was published on October 18, 2020 – 15:55

(Keystone-ATS)

Bolivians were called to the polls on Sunday to elect their president in a highly polarized country. Many calls have been made to avoid a new political crisis, almost a year after the resignation of ex-socialist leader Evo Morales.

For the first time in 20 years, the iconic leader of the South American left, in power from 2006 to 2019, is not a candidate for the presidency. On November 10, 2019, he resigned in the midst of a political crisis, accused of fraud by the opposition, while he was running for a fourth term.

His former Minister of the Economy Luis Arce, candidate of the Movement towards Socialism (MAS), and his main rival, the centrist ex-president Carlos Mesa, 67, are the favorites among six candidates.

Online campaign

According to the latest polls, Mr. Arce, considered the father of the “Bolivian (economic) miracle”, tops the vote in the first round, but should not escape a second round, scheduled for November 29.

Polling stations opened at 8 a.m. local (2 p.m. Swiss) and were due to close at 5 p.m. Some 7.3 million Bolivians are called upon to elect their president, but also their vice-president, and to renew the entire Parliament, currently dominated by the MAS. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the campaign mainly took place online and on social media.

No preliminary results

The electoral court said on Saturday that, to avoid generating uncertainty and tension, no preliminary results would be disclosed. “We will not have the official and final result on Sunday evening. We will give ourselves a few more hours, and it is important that the citizens show patience, because the result will be reliable, although a little slower,” said justified its president, Salvador Romero.

“These elections open a new cycle for the political history of the country, the end of the cycle of government of Evo Morales and the political crisis,” said political scientist Carlos Cordero, of the University Mayor de San Andrés (UMSA) . He hoped “that a process of consolidation of institutions will begin”.

This election will put an end to the interim government led by conservative Jeanine Áñez. She withdrew her candidacy in the face of strong criticism of her management of the pandemic, which has killed more than 8,400 in this country of 11 million inhabitants.

Call for calm

After a tense campaign, many Bolivians fear a repeat of the violence that left 36 people dead last year. In recent days, they have flocked to shops to stock up on food, gas bottles and gasoline.

According to Guery Chuquimia, anthropologist at UMSA, “we are in a different scenario” than last year. “It is possible that there is unrest, but I doubt it is of the same magnitude,” he said.

The Organization of American States (OAS), the European Union, the Union of Electoral Organizations of America (UNIORE) and the Carter Foundation sent observers. Calls for calm have also multiplied. The UN, the EU and the Catholic Church called for a “peaceful” vote and respect for the results.

“Technical rigor”

To ensure the transparency of the ballot, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal has been completely renewed. Its president promised “technical rigor, political impartiality and transparency” in the counting of votes.

The Constitution declares winner in the first round the candidate who obtains the absolute majority or 40% of the votes with an advantage of 10 points on the second. Otherwise a second round takes place.

In 2019, the count had been suspended for more than twenty hours. In his recovery, Evo Morales had been declared the winner in the first round. A few days later, the OAS denounced ballot manipulations.

Supporters and detractors of the MAS mobilized in the streets of several cities in the country, with violent clashes. Dropped by the police and the army, Evo Morales finally resigned, before fleeing to Mexico and then to Argentina.





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