Socialists claim major victory in Bolivia, one year after US-backed coup

Evo Morales’ party has claimed victory in Bolivia’s presidential election. Exit polls give the Movement towards Socialism (MAS) party over 50% of the vote.

To win in the first round, a candidate needs more than 50% of the vote, or 40% with a lead of at least 10 percentage points over the second-placed candidate.

The election was marked by tension after Morales was deposed in a US-backed coup in November 2019. Electoral monitors reported threats and harassment from Bolivian security forces.

With a private quick count of sampled polling stations favouring MAS candidate Luis Arce by a wide margin, even unelected interim president Jeanine Áñez recognised that the socialist movement looked set to return to power.

Bolivia Elections
Electoral officials count ballots after polls closed for presidential elections in La Paz (Juan Karita/AP)

“I congratulate the winners and I ask them to govern thinking in Bolivia and in our democracy,” Áñez said on Twitter.

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“We’ve recovered our democracy,” Morales said in brief remarks from exile in Argentina. “Lucho [Arce] will be our president.”

Argentina Bolivia Elections
Former Bolivian President Evo Morales (Marcos Brindicci/AP)

“I think the Bolivian people want to retake the path we were on,” Arce declared around midnight, surrounded by a small group of supporters.

As Morales’ economy minister, Arce oversaw a surge in growth and reduction in poverty for more than a decade. But he would face an uphill battle to jumpstart growth this time. Though unelected, the Áñez regime accepted a $327mn loan from the IMF, to which austerity conditions will certainly be attached.

Bolivia Elections
An Aymara man votes during general elections in Jesus de Machaca (AP)

Bolivia Elections
Ballots are placed on a table as they are being counted after polls closed in La Paz (AP)

Nonetheless, it would seem that Bolivia’s democracy has, for now, been restored.

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