Bolivia’s interim president, Jeanine Añez, called on voters to be “patient” with the slow results of Sunday’s presidential poll, held after a year of serious political crisis.
“We must all have patience to wait for the results and not to provoke violence,” the interim president said in a televised address after the polls closed.
“I assure you that we will have credible results,” she added.
The interim government said at the end of the afternoon that the poll had proceeded peacefully, apart from a few isolated incidents. “The day has passed in peace throughout the country so far,” Deputy Minister of Security Wilson Santamaria said in a statement.
But the dissemination of the results should be slow after the decision on Saturday of the electoral court not to use a rapid count allowing to have preliminary results, in order to avoid tensions.
“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, ”explained its president, Salvador Romero.
For the first time in 20 years, Evo Morales (2006-2019), emblematic leader of the South American left, is not a candidate for the presidency. On November 10, 2019, he resigned in the midst of a political crisis, accused of fraud by the opposition, while he was running for a fourth term.
His runner-up and ex-Minister of the Economy, 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.
Both have expressed their questions about the decision of the Supreme Court.
This last minute suspension “is not very judicious” because “it could generate doubts” on the results, said Mr. Arce, when voting.
“It is not ideal, but we understand that (the electoral court) chose this path to guarantee the absolute safety of the vote and especially the official count” of the votes, reacted Mr. Mesa.
In the latest polls, Mr. Arce came first in voting intentions in the first round, but should not escape a second round, scheduled for November 29.
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.
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.
“I really don’t know what’s going to happen, I’m afraid it will be even worse,” Virginia Luna, 41, told AFP.
“Avoid any provocation”
“These elections open a new cycle for the political history of the country, the end of the cycle of government of Evo Morales and the political crisis,” said political scientist Carlos Cordero, of the University Mayor de San Andrés (UMSA).
De facto, this election will put an end to the interim government of Mrs. Añez who withdrew her candidacy in the face of strong criticism of her management of the pandemic, which has killed more than 8,400 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.
The EU, which in a statement congratulated the Bolivians on Sunday’s “peaceful” ballot, also asked them to wait for the results “avoiding any provocation or violent action that would endanger or attempt to distort the current electoral process. “.
From Argentina where he is a refugee, Evo Morales, who could not stand for re-election, himself launched on Sunday a call for “the election results to be respected by all”.
“It is very important that all Bolivians and all political parties calmly wait for every vote […] be taken into account, ”said Morales.
The Constitution declares winner in the first round the candidate who obtains the absolute majority or 40% of the votes with an advantage of 10 points on the second. Otherwise a second round takes place.
In 2019, the count was suspended for more than 20 hours. Upon 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 the country. Released by police and the army, Evo Morales eventually resigned, before fleeing to Mexico and then Argentina.