Bolivia presidential elections headed for a run-off

World Today

CORRECTS COUNTRY – Electoral officials count ballots after polls closed for presidential elections in La Paz, Bolivia, Sunday, Oct. 20, 2019. Polls closed after a calm election as President Evo Morales sought an unprecedented fourth term in what was regarded as the tightest race of his political career. (AP Photo/Jorge Saenz)

Preliminary results in Bolivia’s presidential election indicate it should go to a run-off vote, but the incumbent president Evo Morales has already claimed victory, as CGTN’s Dan Collyns reports from La Paz.

The partial results appear to show Evo Morales, president for the last 13 years in Bolivia, will face a second round vote.

After the toughest leadership race Morales has ever faced, the president won the most votes but not enough to secure a sufficient lead over his closest rival, Carlos Mesa.

But, there is tension in Bolivia after the electoral authority stopped updating results on its website on Sunday night.

Electoral observers for the Organization of American States have demanded an explanation, and on Monday met with Morales’ closest rival, Carlos Mesa.

Several countries have expressed their concern over the way in which the vote count is being handled, which is none other than an attempt to eliminate the possibility of a second-round vote which would be an unacceptable abuse by this government, which we will not tolerate,” Presidential Candidate Carlos Mesa said.

His supporters picketed the hotel where the vote count was taking place. With 83% of votes counted, Morales had 45.3% of the vote and Mesa followed with 38.2%.

Morales has governed over an unprecedented period of stability of prosperity in Bolivia but has faced pushback over allegations of corruption in his government.

Many voters are also unhappy that Morales ignored a 2016 referendum which barred him from running for a fourth term in office.

They see it as a sign he is becoming autocratic.

Powerful symbols like the recently built 29-story House of the People add to the growing view that Evo Morales has no intention of letting go of power as well as fueling accusations by his opponents of foul play in this election.

Unconfirmed allegations of electoral fraud in two Bolivian cities are circulating on social media, amid rising anger.

“The citizens went to vote, not just to vote but to control the vote, to take out their cellular phones and take photos of the ballots. The citizens have mobilized against a government which is no longer credible,” political analyst Carlos Toranzo said.

Amid growing opposition, Morales’ support among working-class Bolivians remains strong.

“My vote was for Evo. Because I see advances like the cable car network and more roads. For that, he has my vote now and for the future,” student Beymar Apaza said.

While it is far from clear who will govern Bolivia until 2025, whoever wins looks set to face a divided country and a dipping economy.