After a year of serious political crisis marked by the resignation of left-wing leader Evo Morales, Bolivians voted quietly on Sunday, October 18 to elect their president in a country that is however strongly polarized.
“The day has passed in peace throughout the country until now”, said in a statement the vice-minister for security, Wilson Santamaria, evoking some isolated incidents.
The health protocol linked to the coronavirus pandemic, imposing in particular physical distancing, nevertheless slowed down the voting process, some voters having sometimes had to wait more than two hours to fulfill their civic duty, according to a journalist from Agence France- Press (AFP).
No preliminary results will be disclosed
For the first time in 20 years, Evo Morales, emblematic leader of the South American left, is not a candidate for the presidency. His runner-up and ex-economy minister Luis Arce, 57, candidate for the Movement towards Socialism (MAS), and his main rival, the centrist ex-president Carlos Mesa, 67, are the favorites among six candidates. However, the results should not be known quickly: the electoral tribunal said on Saturday that, to avoid generating tensions, no preliminary results would be disclosed.
“We will not have the official and final result on Sunday evening. We are going to give ourselves a few more hours, and it is important that the citizens show patience because the result will be reliable, although a little slower ”, justified its president, Salvador Romero.
This last minute suspension “Is not very judicious” because “This could generate doubts” on the results, estimated Mr. Arce, who tops the vote in the first round, according to the latest polls.
“It’s not ideal, but we understand that [le tribunal électoral] chose this path to guarantee the absolute safety of the vote and especially the official count ” votes, responded Mr. Mesa, who voted for a residential area of the capital.
Fear of recurrence of violence
Some 7.3 million Bolivians are called upon to elect their president, but also their vice-president, and to renew the entire Parliament, currently dominated by the MAS. De facto, this election will put an end to the interim government led by conservative Jeanine Áñez. She withdrew her candidacy in the face of strong criticism of her management of the pandemic, which has killed more than 8,400 people in this country of 11 million inhabitants.
To ensure the transparency of the ballot, the composition of the electoral tribunal has been renewed. Observers were dispatched by the Organization of American States (OAS), the European Union (EU), the Union of Electoral Organizations of America (UNIORE) and the Carter Foundation. UN, EU and Catholic Church called for vote “Peaceful” and respect for results.
From Argentina where he is a refugee, Evo Morales, who could not represent himself, himself launched on Sunday an appeal for “The results of the elections be respected by all”. “It is very important that all Bolivians and all political parties calmly wait for every vote (…) to be taken into account”, said Morales.
However, many Bolivians fear a repeat of the violence that left 36 people dead last year. In recent days, they have flocked to shops to stock up on food, gas and gasoline.
In 2019, the count was suspended for more than 20 hours. On his resumption, Evo Morales was declared the winner in the first round. The opposition had denounced fraud and clashes had taken place between supporters and detractors of the MAS in several cities of the country. Dropped by the police and the army, Evo Morales had finally resigned.