“Our Armed Forces and the National Police guarantee the security of the elections. They are in the streets in favor of the people, unlike other times ”, declared Jeanine Áñez after opening the electoral day. “The armed forces work for the people, not for a political party,” he insisted.
The interim president invited all Bolivians to go to the polls. “We are going to have free, transparent elections, without pressure”, he was optimistic. Áñez will wait for the results at the presidential residence in La Paz.
On the suspension of the Preliminary Results Dissemination system (DIREPRE) announced last night by the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, which will mean waiting for the official count that can take several days, The president affirmed that she listened to the explanations of Salvador Romero, the president of the TSE, and understood that the decision, although made at the last minute, will allow obtaining “real” results.
The 5,134 polling stations arranged throughout the country began to open at 08.00 local time (12.00 GMT) and will operate for nine hours uninterrupted until 17.00 (21.00 GMT), when schools are expected to close.
Unlike other elections, this time more polling stations were opened and the voting time was extended by one hour to avoid crowds due to the covid-19 pandemic, also providing that people attend to vote in two shifts, depending on the termination of their identity cards.
In total, 7,301,294 Bolivians have been authorized to vote in elections in which five candidates concur, including those of former minister Luis Arce, of the Movement for Socialism (MAS) of Evo Morales, and former president Carlos Mesa, of the alliance Citizen Community.
Arce and Mesa start as favorites in these elections, with the possibility of contesting a second round that would have to be held next November if neither reaches sufficient percentages to win the first round.
Also competing for the presidential seat are former civic leader Luis Fernando Camacho, Presbyterian pastor Chi Hyun Chung and miner Feliciano Mamani.
Some 35,000 police and military will guarantee the normal development of the elections in a day with severe and traditional restrictions that prevent travel through the national territory, the circulation of vehicles without express authorization, the consumption and sale of alcohol and public shows.
Restrictions to which are added new biosecurity measures against covid-19, such as the use of chinstraps or masks, or respecting physical distance when queuing to vote.
In addition, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal has authorized 301,631 residents in about thirty countries, the majority in Argentina, Spain and Brazil.
In Chile, where there is the fourth Bolivian community with the most qualified to vote, only residents of Santiago can do so due to restrictions against the pandemic that still apply in northern Chile. Neither will the 142 authorized in Panama, whose Government did not authorize the development of Bolivian elections in its territory, will be able to vote. The first polling stations were those of Japan, South Korea, China and India, due to the time difference.
Voting is mandatory for residents of Bolivia, but not for those living abroad.
The elections are monitored by international observers from entities such as the Organization of American States (OAS), the European Union (EU), the Inter-American Union of Electoral Organizations and the Carter Center.
There are also at least four delegations invited by the MAS, as confirmed by their own spokespersons, including one headed by former Paraguayan president Fernando Lugo, one from the Mercosur Parliament (Parlasur) and groups of European and Argentine parliamentarians.