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Exlpained: Why Bolivia is on boil over ‘election fraud’

Bolivia is the third country in Latin America, after Ecuador and Chile, where large scale protests are taking place this month.

Written by Om Marathe , Edited by Explained Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: October 28, 2019 6:30:35 pm
Bolivia, Bolivia protest, Bolivia protests news, Evo Morales Bolivia, Indian Express Explained Anti-government protesters march demanding a second round presidential election in La Paz, Bolivia, Saturday, Oct. 26, 2019. (AP)

This week, protests have roiled Bolivia, where many have questioned the fairness of the country’s general elections held last week. The polls brought incumbent President Evo Morales back to power for a fourth term.

Bolivia is the third country in Latin America, after Ecuador and Chile, where large scale protests are taking place this month. However, unlike the other two, where the public anger is largely directed towards deep-rooted issues such as income inequality, the Bolivian protests principally concern the alleged election fraud.

What happened in Bolivia’s election?

Evo Morales, Bolivia’s first President of indigenous origin, has been at the country’s helm since 2006. The socialist has been credited with bringing economic stability to the Andean nation, and remains popular among rural voters.

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After a 2016 referendum that abolished term limits, Morales successfully appealed against the verdict in Bolivia’s top court, and was able to contest for a fourth time this year.

The elections were held on October 20, and initial results showed a tight race between Morales and his rival Carlos Mesa, a former President. Soon after, the publication of the results by the election body was abruptly stopped for 24 hours. After it resumed, Morales was shown as leading by a greater margin, a lead of more than 10%.

In Bolivian polls, if the margin between the top two candidates is less than 10%, a runoff or second election is held between them.

The results were seen with suspicion, and protesters rallied on the streets. The anger was further fuelled on October 22, when a member of the Bolivian election body resigned. On Friday, the election authorities affirmed Morales’s election victory, giving him 47.1% of the total vote share, with a lead of more than 10% over Mesa. The affirmation further irked protesters.

Critics allege that the vote was rigged during the 24 hours when the publication was cut off.

The US, Brazil, Argentina and Colombia have urged Bolivia to conduct a second round of voting, and Mesa has asked his supporters to continue the protests. Meanwhile, Morales has accused his rivals of being part of a right-wing conspiracy to remove him from power.

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