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Controversial presidential election: "Bolivia has said no"


Incumbent Evo Morales has declared himself the winner of the presidential election in Bolivia, but his opponents are scamming and calling for a runoff. An angry protest is forming on the streets.

When the electoral council announced its decision on Monday night, it took less than an hour for the first regional offices to burn. In Potosí, Cochabamba, Tarija and Chuquisaca, furious Bolivians went to see the representatives of the institution, which had practically just awarded Evo Morales victory in the presidential election. People stormed the offices, ravaged them, put out fires or burnt ballot papers. "Bolivia dijo No," they chanted. "Bolivia said no."

Millions of Bolivians feel betrayed and want to prevent the protest that the left-wing leader Morales secures a fourth mandate in a row since 2005, without going into the run-off against his conservative challenger Carlos Mesa. In addition, they are incensed that Morales ever competed in the election on Sunday, although the constitution of the country actually prohibits.


Burning election office in Sucre: Massive protests

In La Paz, supporters and opponents of the president gathered in front of the Hotel Real Plaza, where the electoral council evaluated the election results. Police separated the groups and used tear gas against the Morales opponents.

The defeated candidate Mesa - himself president from 2003 to 2005 - made it clear a few minutes after publication of the results that he would not recognize Morales' victory. The politician who ruled Bolivia from 2003 to 2005 spoke of a "scandalous scam" and called the electoral council a "shame for Bolivia". Mesa urged the population not to acknowledge this "falsified result" and called for civil disobedience.

Jorge Saenz / DPA

Bolivia's opposition presidential candidate Carlos Mesa

What happened?

  • On election night, the electoral council suddenly interrupted the rapid counting (TREP) after evaluation of 84 percent of the votes, allegedly for "technical reasons". At the time, everything pointed to a runoff between Morales and the runner-up Mesa. Morales led with 45.28 percent of the vote, Mesa was therefore 38.16 percent. Nevertheless, the incumbent declared himself the winner at that time.
  • 24 hours later, the electoral council resumed the counting just as suddenly. At around 20 o'clock he declared Morales the winner after counting 95 percent of the votes. Accordingly, the head of state came to 46.86 percent. On Mesa allegedly accounted for only 36.72 percent. That would have won the left president in the first round, albeit wafer-thin. In Bolivia, 40 percent of the vote will be enough to win without a runoff, if the lead over the runner-up is at least ten percentage points.

The Election Observation Mission of the Organization of American States (OAS) was "deeply concerned" about the TREP results on Monday evening. The results of Sunday evening had "clearly on a ballot" hinted. The "inexplicable change" in the tendency of the results leads to a "loss of confidence in the electoral process". The EU Monitoring Mission said on Monday that "grave doubts" about the electoral process should be resolved promptly.

Juan Carlos Nuñez, director of the Catholic Foundation Jubileo says: "The Bolivians are outraged by the election result". During the interruption of the counting on Monday had been found in many places filled ballot boxes in houses, in the pre-filled ballots in favor of Morales, said Nuñez.

In a possible runoff in December, it could be tight for Morales, as there are several candidates on the conservative side, whose supporters are likely to vote in a runoff for Mesa: An ultra-conservative preacher received 8.7 percent of the vote, a neoliberal senator 4.3 Percent.

Juan Karita / DPA

Supporters of Carlos Mesa in La Paz: anger at the electoral council

Morales has been ruling Bolivia since 2006. When he came to power, left was in Latin America en vogue. Hugo Chávez led Venezuela. Argentina, Brazil and Chile also had left or left-liberal governments in power. Meanwhile, left in the region is more of a bad name. Only "El Evo", the Evo, the Kokabauer and Aymara Indians, is still there. Ironically, Morales, who at the beginning of his term faced racist abuse of white elites, which many did not trust the job as head of state.

But pushed by the commodity boom and the gas and mineral exports of the country, the Bolivian economy grew in recent years on average by 4.9 percent. Inflation is low, infrastructure is being continuously expanded and wealth redistributed through numerous social programs. According to World Bank data, poverty in the Andean country fell from 63 to 35 percent during Morales' tenure.

However, Morales became increasingly autocratic in the course of this. In February 2016, he held a referendum on a constitutional amendment to abolish the ban on a fourth term anchored there. Morales lost the citizens' survey surprisingly. It was his first defeat since taking office.

But just two years later, the Constitutional Court granted him the right to apply for another term. And at the end of last year, the electoral court ruled that Morales and his vice president Álvaro Garcia Linera should return to the race. Since then, many citizens have lost confidence in the institution.

In fact, Bolivia now resembles Nicaragua and Venezuela, where the rulers Daniel Ortega and Nicolás Maduro have turned to the judiciary and electoral authority to secure their power. In an interview with the Spanish daily El Pais, Morales simply ignored the criticism that he had ignored the referendum result: "The international agreements are over the constitution," he said. He only respects the will of the people.

Source: spiegel

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