Bolivian President Evo Morales Would Welcome International Audit Of Election

In Bolivia, the week-long protests began after the electoral results, which declared President Evo Morales the winner of the first-round election, for a fourth consecutive term. People on the streets claim electoral fraud and The Organization of American States and the European Union, said the results were so close that it would be better to hold the second round of elections.

To win the first round of elections, President Morales needed a difference of more than 10 percentage points more than former President Carlos Mesa.

According to the electoral authority´s website, with 99% of votes counted, Morales obtained 46.95 in comparison to Mesa, who got 36.6%. This gave Morales just a 0.35 percentage-point advantage, just above 10% that not met, would have led to the second round of elections on 15 December.

Morales has accused international leaders and the international community to be against him after protests erupted over October 20th´s electoral results. On the other side, Mesa accused the vote count of being a “gigantic fraud”, orchestrated by Morales to remain in power.

Tensions boiled, when, hours after the first results of the quick count posted by the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, which pointed to Mesa as the winner, stopped updating. The website did not update anything for 24 hours, and people turned concerned. When it updated again, Morales was leading with a 10.12 percentage point advantage.

Antonio Guterres, the United  Nations Secretary-General, said the OAS has their support on the audit of Bolivia´s election results. 

“Let them come! Let’s have an audit — vote by vote, ballot box by the ballot box, city by city, province by province! I will accompany them and if there is fraud, the next day I’ll call for a second round,” said Morales according to AP News.

However, later on, he said in another event, he stated he´ll send his followers from Conalcam, to choke off cities where the strikes have been taking place opposing his reelection.

One of the members of a computer engineer group Higher University of San Andres (UMSA), Edgar Villegas – interviewed in broadcast television at CNN on Friday by Fernando del Rincon -, affirmed that the investigation conducted by the group found proof of fraud in the elections. Villegas showed irregularities found in the count of the TSE and handwritten electoral records, for example, votes in one of the handwritten spreadsheets show 5 votes for the Socialist Party (MAS), -Morales´ party – which transformed in the computerized spreadsheet into 55 votes for MAS. They denoted this phenomenon occurred at least 3% of all the counts, equivalent to 1,000 electoral certificates, that benficiate only MAS´party.  All the irregularities found in that small percentage, alleged UMSA, could have been enough to get the indigenous President an advantage of more than 10% over Mesa, according to CNN News.

Villegas said to CNN reporter Rincon, that after the publication of this investigation, he and his family have received threats. 

The European Union, U.S., Brazil among other countries, conveyed for second-round elections, and support the electoral audit by OAS. Indeed, many countries decided to stop their trade with Bolivia until the audit it’s finished by the OAS, and it has not started. On the other hand, Venezuela, Cuba, and Mexico congratulated him, according to Reuters.

Morales, who has been in power for the past 14 years, is Latin America´s longest-serving president, and the first native Aymara to govern the country. Elected in 2006, he has boosted the economy of the poorest country in America. However over the past few years, discomfort has grown in the population, and more after his refusal to the referendum results of 2016, that keeps him from running in the elections from Oct. 20th. He dismissed the country´s choice in the referendum and ran once again for the presidency.

Protests are expected to continue, the international community and opposition leaders of the country, wait for the results of the audit and call to maintain peaceful protests and to not give up on democracy.