Bolivia awaits voting results in election redo amid pandemic

Clay Curtis
October 20, 2020

If the results hold, the leftwing party of former president Evo Morales, the Movement for Socialism (MAS), will return to power.

"It's not ideal but we understand that (the electoral body) has chosen the path to guaranteeing absolute security of the vote and above all the official count", said centrist former president Carlos Mesa, who has been running second in polls and is expected to face Arce in a run-off next month. "We have recovered democracy, and we will regain stability and social peace".

Matters weren't helped late Saturday night when the Electoral Tribunal announced it was suspending the rapid count because it couldn't guarantee the accuracy of those results.

The rapid count in 2019 suggested there would be no outright victor, but after it was inexplicably frozen for 24 hours, Morales had jumped into a winning lead over Mesa once the live count resumed.

Anez asked Arce "to govern with Bolivia and democracy in mind".

"Very grateful for the support and trust of the Bolivian people", Arce posted on Twitter early Monday after the exit poll results were published.

Protests over last year's vote and later his resignation set off a period of unrest that caused at least 36 deaths.

Arce is a former economy minister under Morales.

The head of Bolivia's top electoral body praised "a successful day for democracy" and called for calm as citizens waited for the results of Sunday's general election.

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Sunday's election, which was postponed twice because of the COVID-19 pandemic, was the first in 20 years not to have Morales, the country's first ever indigenous leader, on the ballot. To win outright, a candidate needs at least 40% of the vote and to beat the runner up by at least 10 percentage points. Arce will face the question of whether Morales can return from exile and how he should face a series of corruption scandals.

The boom in prices for Bolivia's mineral exports that helped feed that progress has faded, and the new coronavirus has hit the impoverished, landlocked Bolivia harder than nearly any other country on a per capita basis.

When police and military leaders suggested he leave, Morales resigned and fled the country.

All seats in the 136-member Legislative Assembly also were also being contested, Sunday, with results expected to echo the presidential race.

But after allegations of fraud and violent protests marred last year's ballot, newly installed electoral authorities have been appealing for patience, reminding voters that they have up to five days to declare a victor. "The great lesson we should never forget is that violence only generates violence, and with that, we all lose", he said.

Arce's victory is bound to reenergize Latin America's left, whose anthem of economic justice has broad appeal in a region where poverty is expected to surge to 37 per cent this year, according to the United Nations.

"We are going to work, and we will resume the process of change without hate", Arce told reporters. Anez, a conservative senator, proclaimed herself interim president amid last year's tumult and was accepted by the courts. Her administration, despite lacking a majority in congress, set about trying to prosecute Morales and key aides while undoing his policies, helping prompt more unrest and polarization.

The country's interim presidency is now led by conservative Senator Jeanne Anez, who proclaimed herself leader in the aftermath of the 2019 voided election, with the backing of the country's courts.

"A lot of people said if this is the alternative being offered, I prefer to go back to the way things were", said Andres Gomez, a political scientist based in La Paz.

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