Bolivian President Evo Morales seeks fourth term in office

World Today

Bolivia’s President Evo Morales waves to members of the press as he visits a trout farm where he stopped to eat in Incachaca, Bolivia, Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019. Morales is seeking a fourth term in Sunday’s general elections. (AP Photo/Juan Karita)

Bolivia votes Sunday in a knife-edge presidential election. Incumbent leader Evo Morales is running for a fourth term.

Although he’s highly popular, many fear a victory will cement his grip on power. From La Paz, CGTN’s Dan Collyns reports.

As Bolivians vote on Sunday, this will be incumbent president Evo Morales’ toughest re-election bid yet. After 13 years in power, more Bolivian voters than ever before want a change.

Yet Morales could still win a controversial fourth term even as critics cry foul. His main rival in the polls Carlos Mesa calls it undemocratic.

Despite slipping approval ratings, Morales remains one of the most popular leaders in Latin America. Since he took office in 2006, he has transformed South America’s poorest nation.

The cable car network crisscrossing the twin cities of La Paz and El Alto is perhaps one of Evo Morales’ greatest legacies. But even among those people who are grateful to the president for his transformation of the country, there are many who feel it is time for a change at the top.

Bolivia has been one of the region’s fastest-growing economies – with annual growth averaging at 4.9%. But economists warn of a looming crisis, and it is particularly younger voters who worry that Morales wants to be president for life.

“Sometimes when you spend too much time in power, that power corrupts you. It’s happened in the case of Venezuela and we can see the results. It’s also time for someone new in Bolivia,” Voter Jean Michael Ticona said.

Morales drew up a new constitution enshrining the rights of indigenous people and nationalized the profits from gas exports. He halved extreme poverty, mostly through conditional cash transfers for the poor.

“We live better now, there’s even money for the babies, and we elderly women also have money. That’s why I’m thinking of voting for Evo,” street vendor Valentina Mamani said.

The leftist leader has used profits from the commodity boom to build roads, bridges and other infrastructure across the nation. But he’s also faced accusations of corruption.

“President Morales has won elections legally three times but the citizens are not prepared to allow indefinite re-election which would mean authoritarianism and dictatorship which would foment corruption over which the citizens would have no control,” political scientist Carlos Cordero said.

Morales narrowly lost a referendum in 2016 which barred him from running for office. But Bolivia’s highest court ruled the decision violated his human rights, allowing him to stand for elections for another five-year term, beginning in 2020.

Polls indicate that unless Morales wins outright on Sunday, he could struggle to win a second-round vote.