Some 7.3 million Bolivians will vote this 18-O after a campaign developed mainly by social networks due to the coronavirus.
Almost a year after the traumatic resignation of the socialist president Evo Morales, Bolivians elect a new President this Sunday, October 18, in a polarized climate, with the economy hit by the coronavirus and fears of another social upheaval.
For the first time in 20 years, Morales is excluded from the electoral contest, after resigning on November 10, 2019 in the midst of a crisis over allegations of fraud in the elections in which he was seeking a fourth term.
The electoral centers will close at 5:00 in the afternoon under a military and police guard, as well as sanitary measures due to the coronavirus. The first results should be known an hour later.
The favorite candidates are the economist Luis Arce, from Morales’s Movement to Socialism (MAS), and former centrist president Carlos Mesa (2003-2005), from Comunidad Ciudadana, second in the 2019 elections, which were annulled due to allegations of fraud.
The architect of the economic “miracle” under Morales (2006-2019), it is very likely that Arce will have to go to a ballot with Mesa on November 29.
Some 7.3 million Bolivians will vote after a campaign developed mainly by social networks due to the coronavirus, although with some clashes in the streets between pro and anti-Evo militants.
“It is the end of a cycle of the government of Evo Morales and of the political crisis. It is expected that a process will begin to strengthen the institutions, ”political scientist Carlos Cordero, from the Bolivian Catholic University, told AFP.
The Andean country is going through its deepest economic crisis in almost 40 years, with a forecast contraction of GDP of 6.2% in 2020.
The elections will also put an end to the transitional government of the right-wing Jeanine Áñez, who withdrew her candidacy after criticizing her management of the pandemic, which has left more than 8,400 dead and 130,000 infections.
The belligerent campaign, with threats from the MAS to mobilize in the face of possible “fraud” and the spread of false news, has raised tension.
In the hours before the vote, long lines of cars formed to buy gasoline and many people went to the markets to buy food. Some businesses walled up their doors to prevent looting.
“Obviously there is going to be a social upheaval (…), which we hope will not be very long,” Clara Quitalba, 49, from the city of El Alto, a stronghold of MAS and bordering La Paz, told AFP.
But Renata Zapata, 24, hopes “it will be quiet” on voting day. “We do not want to live what last year because it was terrible,” he said in the Plaza Murillo in La Paz, in front of the Government House.
“There may be a commotion, but I doubt it will be of the same magnitude” as that of 2019, which left more than 30 dead and 800 injured, anthropologist Guery Chuquimia, an academic at the state University Mayor of San Andrés, told AFP. .
Cordero, on the other hand, considered that “international observers are going to be a guarantee that there will be no disturbances.”
On Saturday night, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) announced the suspension of the rapid system for the dissemination of preliminary election results, arguing that it would not provide sufficient certainty compared to official data. The measurement implies that the count will be slower.
To guarantee transparency, the TSE was purged and observer missions from the OAS, the European Union, the Carter Center, among others, called for peace and “respecting the results.”
The UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, also asked to respect the verdict of the polls.
The fears are due to the fact that after the October 2019 elections, the vote count was suspended for more than 20 hours and when Morales resumed, he appeared with a jump that made him the winner in the first round.
Days later, the electoral mission of the Organization of American States (OAS) affirmed that there was manipulation in the calculation.
The opposition and supporters of Morales took over the streets and there were violent riots that left 36 dead and 800 wounded. Three weeks later Morales resigned when the armed forces asked him to step aside.
Morales, exiled in Argentina, who was disqualified from voting, will continue from there the instances of the election, which he described as “historic day.”
He warned that if his dolphin Arce wins the elections, “the next day” he will return to Bolivia.