Muscat Daily

Bo­li­vians fear ‘up­heaval’ as gen­eral elec­tion starts

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La Paz, Bo­livia - Vot­ers ex­pect so­cial up­heaval for the sec­ond time in a year no mat­ter who wins Sun­day’s gen­eral elec­tion in Bo­livia.

Polls open at 8.00am in an elec­tion that will not fea­ture for­mer pres­i­dent Evo Mo­rales for the first time in 20 years.

It comes a year af­ter Mo­rales stood for, and won, an un­con­sti­tu­tional fourth term in a con­tro­ver­sial elec­tion last year that sparked weeks of protests.

Mo­rales, who re­signed and fled into ex­ile, is barred from tak­ing part this time around but his suc­ces­sor as leader of the Move­ment for So­cial­ism (MAS) party, Luis Arce, has topped ev­ery poll since he was nom­i­nated in Jan­uary.

Ten­sions have been run­ning high with MAS warn­ing of a pend­ing ‘fraud’ and threat­en­ing to protest should they not get their way, while mis­in­for­ma­tion has been cir­cu­lat­ing freely.

“Ob­vi­ously there will be so­cial up­heaval ... we just hope it won’t last long,” Clara Quitalba (49) from the MAS bas­tion of EL Alto on the out­skirts of La Paz, told AFP.

Last year protests broke out against Mo­rales’ vic­tory fol­low­ing a 24 hour halt in the live, trans­par­ent vote count that saw the in­cum­bent’s lead jump dra­mat­i­cally once it re­sumed.

A later au­dit by the Or­ga­ni­za­tion of Amer­i­can States found clear ev­i­dence of fraud.

“Hope­fully it will be calm be­cause we don’t want to go through what hap­pened last year. It was ter­ri­ble,” said Re­nata Za­p­ata (24) in La Paz.

The protests didn’t end with Mo­rales’ ex­ile as his sup­port­ers took to the streets in turn.

In to­tal, the un­rest left 36 dead and 800 in­jured.

‘End of a cy­cle’

Arce is ex­pected to win Sun­day’s first round but the ques­tion is whether the 57 year old can achieve the re­quired 40 per cent with a ten-point lead to avoid a run-off.

Polls sug­gest cen­trist for­mer pres­i­dent Car­los Mesa (67) will take enough votes to en­sure there is a run-off, which he would be ex­pected to win with the other four can­di­dates likely to then en­dorse him.

“While the mar­gin will be close, we re­main of the view that Mesa will take the race to a 29 Novem­ber runoff, which he would be favoured to win,” said Eura­sia Group’s an­a­lyst for Brazil and Bo­livia, Filipe Grup­pelli Car­valho. But there is rea­son to be hope­ful of a re­turn to democ­racy and sta­bil­ity af­ter Mo­rales tried to hold onto power de­spite the con­sti­tu­tion lim­it­ing a pres­i­dent to two suc­ces­sive terms.

“It’s the end of a cy­cle of the Evo Mo­rales gov­ern­ment and the po­lit­i­cal cri­sis,” po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tist Car­los Cordero from the Catholic Univer­sity, told AFP. Mo­rales, Bo­livia’s first indige­nous pres­i­dent, ruled for nearly 14 years.

“We hope a process to strengthen the (po­lit­i­cal) in­sti­tu­tions will be­gin,” added Cordero.

Ob­server mis­sions from the Euro­pean Union, OAS and the Carter Cen­ter will be present dur­ing the elec­tions.

 ?? (AFP) ?? Bo­li­vian army per­son­nel con­duct flag march on the eve of gen­eral elec­tions, in La Paz on Satur­day
(AFP) Bo­li­vian army per­son­nel con­duct flag march on the eve of gen­eral elec­tions, in La Paz on Satur­day

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