President Evo Morales poised to win reelection in Bolivia

World Tuesday 22/October/2019 09:03 AM
By: Times News Service
President Evo Morales poised to win reelection in Bolivia

Sucre: Bolivia's election authority said late Monday that President Evo Morales had cracked a 10-point percentage lead over his nearest opponent, Carlos Mesa.

With 95 per cent of the votes counted, the latest count shows Morales with just over 46.8 per cent and Mesa at 36.7 per cent, enough of a margin to avoid a second round of voting.

Election officials updated a preliminary vote count Monday evening after a nearly 24-hour pause sparked protests and calls from international observers and foreign governments for it to resume, in order to ensure transparency.

Monday evening's numbers show Mesa's vote percentage as being lower than Sunday's count, which had him above 38 per cent. Morales added one percentage point, up from 45 per cent.

Mesa has refused to recognise the results of the vote, calling them part of a "shameful, consummated fraud, that is putting Bolivian society in a situation of unnecessary tension.”

Had neither candidate received 50 per cent of the vote in the first round, or 40 per cent of the vote with a 10-point lead over second place, the two leading candidates would have faced each other in a runoff on 15 December.

Protests in La Paz

Initial results Sunday had shown Mesa making it to a second round of voting, with 84 per cent of the ballots showing Morales short of the votes needed to avoid a runoff.

On Monday, supporters of each of the opposing candidates clashed in the streets on outside of the electoral court in the capital, La Paz.

By nightfall, there were reports violent clashes in other cities around Bolivia. In La Paz, police attempted to disperse protesters with tear gas, and there were reports of election offices being set on fire in other parts of the country.

Bolivian Interior Minister Carlos Romero blamed the opposition for causing unrest and said "they have to take care of the violence they're generating."

In Santa Cruz, an opposition stronghold, Mesa encouraged his supporters, saying "they can't take democracy away from us.”

Mesa told reporters that the government was trying to "manipulate" the results and prevent a runoff by stalling the vote count.

In office for nearly 14 years, Morales is South America's longest-serving president. If his victory is confirmed, Morales' controversial fourth term as president comes after he overturned Bolivia's two-term limit.

In a 2016 referendum, Bolivian voters rejected Morales' proposal to scrap term limits. However in 2018, the country's Supreme Court — seen by critics as being stacked with Morales loyalists — then overturned the decision and ruled that Morales had the right to run again.