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Final count gives Luis Arce a big victory in Bolivia election | Latin America

The result, which was a vindication to Evo Morales’s MAS party, also gave majorities in both houses of Congress.

Leftist leader Luis Arce has won a smashing victory in Bolivia’s presidential election, a final official vote count released on Friday shows, providing vindication for the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) party of overthrown President Evo Morales.

The Supreme Electoral Tribunal announced Arce won 55 percent of the votes against six rivals on the ballot, easily avoiding the need for a runoff.

Salvador Romero, the head of Bolivia’s electoral authority, said in a press conference late on Friday that Bolivia could celebrate “the closing of the count” with all ballots counted, adding there had been huge voter turn-out despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

“With 88 percent participation, Bolivians set the second highest record in our history and one of the highest in Latin America in the 21st century,” he told reporters.

“This affirms how people want to live in peace and with institutions that fulfill their mission, and rejected the ominous predictions of confrontation and violence.”

Opposition members taking part in a protest against Luis Arce’s victory, in La Paz, Bolivia [Juan Karita/AP]

The runner-up was centrist former President Carlos Mesa with just less than 29 percent.

Conservative Luis Fernando Camacho, one of the leaders of the protest movement that helped drive Morales out of the country a year ago, received only 14 percent of the vote.

“The election is done,” Mesa wrote on Twitter. He added his congratulations to Arce for the win, which had been clear since the start of the week but not officially confirmed.

“We will remain vigilant in the democratic opposition fulfilling the mandate of the people,” Mesa added.

MAS majorities in Congress

MAS also won majorities in both houses of Congress, though that fell short of the two-thirds majorities it would need to modify the constitution without consent by opposition parties.

Arce served as economy minister for a dozen years under Morales, Bolivia’s first Indigenous president, as the country’s mineral exports boomed and poverty was sharply reduced.

Since winning the election, Arce has downplayed speculation of a major role in his administration for Morales, whose popularity was dented in his final years as president by a refusal to accept term limits and by perceived growing authoritarianism.

Former Bolivian President Evo Morales attending a news conference in Buenos Aires, Argentina [Agustin Marcarian/Reuters]

Last year’s presidential election was annulled after disputed claims of fraud sparked widespread protests.

The political convulsion that preceded and followed Morales’s resignation – at the prompting of the military – led to at least 36 deaths.

The new election was organised by a revamped electoral tribunal under a deeply conservative interim government that had tried to reverse many of Morales’s economic, cultural and foreign policies. It suffered economic setbacks in part due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Morales, who faces a series of charges lodged by the interim administration, was barred from seeking office. He has been living in self-exile in Buenos Aires, Argentina.


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