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.
“I congratulate the winners and I ask them to govern thinking in Bolivia and in our democracy,” Áñez said on Twitter.
“We’ve recovered our democracy,” Morales said in brief remarks from exile in Argentina. “Lucho [Arce] will be our president.”
“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.
Nonetheless, it would seem that Bolivia’s democracy has, for now, been restored.
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