Sunday, October 18th is set to be the date for Bolivia’s snap elections. Finally, Bolivia’s future president and government will be decided on after the two previously planned re-run elections were postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This election re-run follows the disruptive and inconclusive elections in October 2019. Sparked by reports of electoral fraud, Bolivia’s first indigenous president Evo Morales was exiled amidst protests and chaos. Morales, who had been in office since 2006, is not running for president in this election re-run, having been banned from doing so and charged with “sedition” and “terrorism” in his homeland, as published by the BBC. In addition to the reports of electoral fraud, his decision to run for president was also controversial as it directly contravened the results of a 2016 referendum where the public narrowly voted against amending the constitution to allow Morales to stand for election for a fourth term.
Despite Morales’ quick departure and the controversy surrounding it, his party, known as the Movement for Socialism, or Mas, is thought to be the favourite in the upcoming re-election, led by the former finance minister Luis Acre. Eduardo Gamarra, a Bolivia expert at Florida International University told the Guardian, “there is quite possibly a scenario where the Mas essentially picks up where it left off, only with Luis Arce as president.” Other frontrunners, as reported by Al Jazeera, include Carlos Mesa of the Citizen Community party and Luis Fernando Camacho of the CREEMOS party. Current conservative interim president Jeanine Áñez, whose initial decision to run had surprised many, pulled out of the race in September to “avoid a dispersion of the vote” between right-wing candidates, as reported by the BBC. Her decision to run had been widely criticized given her initial role and ambitions to focus solely on leading the country to new, fair elections, in addition to her and her government’s failings in effectively managing the COVID-19 crisis in Bolivia.
In order to win, candidates have to have at least 40% of the vote, with 10% more than their rivals; if this is not achieved then another run-off election is pencilled in for the 29th of November. It is hoped that this re-run election will run smoothly and that a successor will be democratically elected. The controversial 2019 election where the Organization of American States (OAS) reported findings of electoral fraud in what would have been the fourth victory for Morales resulted in protests and violence where at least 30 people were killed and hundreds more were injured. The international community, including the UN and the EU, have called on Bolivian officials to maintain peace during this election. A spokesperson of the UN Secretary-General António Guterres has said that he “reaffirms his support to the aspiration of Bolivians to hold transparent, credible, participatory and inclusive elections in a framework of full respect for civil and political rights.”
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