Bolivia official vote count confirms landslide socialist win

Members of the Departmental Electoral Tribunal count votes after nationwide election in La Paz, Bolivia October 21, 2020. ― Reuters pic
Members of the Departmental Electoral Tribunal count votes after nationwide election in La Paz, Bolivia October 21, 2020. ― Reuters pic

LA PAZ, Oct 24 ― Bolivia's official vote count yesterday confirmed a landslide win for Luis Arce, who won just over 55 per cent of the vote, sweeping the country's socialists back into power about a year after leftist leader Evo Morales was ousted amid protests.

The final tally put Arce, a pragmatic economist who is credited with fostering Bolivia's boom years from the mid 2000s, over 26-points ahead of centrist runner-up Carlos Mesa, who ended with just shy of 29 per cent ― a far larger gap than had been expected.

The win draws the curtain on a tough period for Bolivia after an election late last year dogged by disputed allegations of fraud. The vote plunged the country into violent protests and political turmoil, eventually prompting Morales to resign.

“The election is done,” Mesa, who also placed second in the since voided 2019 vote, wrote on Twitter. He added his congratulations to Arce for the win, which had been clear since the start of the week but not officially confirmed.

“We will remain vigilant in the democratic opposition fulfilling the mandate of the people,” Mesa added.

The vote, coming against the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic and an economic slide, was a body blow for Bolivia's centrist and conservative parties, which had played only a bit-part role in Morales' near 14-year administration.

The caretaker President Jeanine Anez, who took over amid a power vacuum last year, withdrew from the race in the election build-up, while Mesa led a muted campaign. Third place runner Luis Camacho was limited to a small conservative base.

Morales, living in exile in Argentina, remains the president of Arce's party, the Movement Toward Socialism, or MAS. But Arce told Reuters earlier this week Morales would have no role in his government.

“The people's decision achieved the recovery of democracy,” Arce wrote on Twitter yesterday.

Governments and observers have widely heralded the election for being peaceful and transparent ― in contrast to the 2019 vote which led to running street battles between party supporters and security forces and the deaths of over 30 people.

Salvador Romero, the head of Bolivia's electoral authority, said in a press conference late on Friday that Bolivia could celebrate “the closing of the count” with all ballots counted, adding there had been huge voter turn-out despite the pandemic.

“With 88 per cent participation, Bolivians set the second highest record in our history and one of the highest in Latin America in the 21st century,” he told reporters.

“This affirms how people want to live in peace and with institutions that fulfill their mission, and rejected the ominous predictions of confrontation and violence.” ― Reuters

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