Luis Arce, the leftist candidate and runner-up to former head of state Evo Morales, won the presidential race in Bolivia in the first round on Sunday with more than 52% of the vote, according to several exit polls.
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The former Minister of the Economy, 57, is more than 20 points ahead of his main rival, the centrist Carlos Mesa, and ensures the return to power of the Movement towards Socialism (MAS) after the resignation in November 2019 of Evo Morales, accused by the opposition of electoral fraud.
Bolivia “has returned to democracy” said the winner at a press conference with its vice-president David Choquehuanca. “We are going to work for all all Bolivians, we are going to set up a government of national unity,” he added.
Acting President Jeanine Añez congratulated Mr. Arce on his victory: “we do not yet have an official tally, but according to the data we have, Mr. Arce and Mr. Choquehuanca have won the elections” , she said on Twitter.
Luis Arce won 52.4% of the vote, against 31.5% for ex-president Carlos Mesa (2003-2005), 67, according to a poll broadcast by the private channel Unitel. Another poll released by the Catholic Jubileo Foundation credits the left-wing candidate with 53% of the vote, against 30.8% for his rival.
At the same time, more than seven hours after the polls closed, the official results were only known for 6% of them
From Argentina, where he is a refugee, Morales claimed victory for his party: “The MAS largely won the elections, including in the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies. Arce is the president of Bolivia, ”he told reporters in Buenos Aires where he lives.
Since the end of the calm voting operations, Bolivians’ appeals for “patience” have increased in the face of the extremely slow release of official results.
“For an election that is so delicate for the future of the country, we must prioritize certainty about the electoral results,” Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) president Salvador Romero told a press conference.
While welcoming the good conduct of the ballot, “a successful day for Bolivian democracy”, Mr. Romero recalled “that the official count is done with the arrival of the minutes” in the departmental electoral courts and that “it takes time. time”.
Previously, Ms. Añez, had already asked voters to be “patient” and “not to provoke violence”. The government said earlier that the polls had been held “peacefully across the country”, apart from a few isolated incidents.
The slowness of the dissemination of official results results from the decision of the electoral tribunal on Saturday not to use a rapid count via photos of the minutes sent from the polling stations allowing preliminary results to be obtained, but to favor a full manual count in departmental centers, to avoid tensions.
The president of the TSE, however, indicated in his speech that the media were authorized to broadcast polls out of the polls.
For the first time in 20 years, Evo Morales (2006-2019), an iconic leader of the South American left, was not a presidential candidate. On November 10, 2019, he resigned amid a political crisis, accused of fraud by the opposition, while running for a fourth term.
Some 7.3 million Bolivians were called upon to elect their president, but also their vice-president, and to renew the bicameral Parliament, in the unprecedented context of the coronavirus pandemic.
However, many Bolivians feared a repeat of the post-election violence that left 36 people dead last year. They have been rushing to shops in recent days for supplies.
“I really don’t know what’s going to happen, I’m afraid it will be even worse,” Virginia Luna, 41, told AFP as she left her polling station.
To ensure the transparency of the ballot, the composition of the electoral tribunal has been renewed. Observers were dispatched notably by the Organization of American States (OAS), the European Union (EU) and the Carter Foundation.
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. Dropped by the police and the army, Evo Morales finally resigned, before fleeing to Mexico and then Argentina.