Bolivia Election Clash Escalates as Morales Claims Victory

Bolivia Election Clash Escalates as Morales Claims Victory


President Evo Morales of Bolivia on Wednesday claimed that he won Sunday’s election by a margin wide enough to avoid a runoff, escalating a dispute over a vote marred by allegations of irregularities and violent clashes.

Mr. Morales, who has been in office since 2006, asserted that he would declare a “state of emergency” to fight back against what he characterized as a foreign-backed coup attempt.

“I want the world to know that until now we have stood by patiently to avoid violence,” he said during a news conference in La Paz, the seat of the presidency.

The outcome of the vote has been in dispute since election officials released preliminary results on Sunday night that pointed to a runoff between Mr. Morales and Carlos Mesa, a former president — only to backtrack within 24 hours. On Monday night, election officials released an updated vote tally showing that Mr. Morales was leading by more than 10 percentage points, the margin required to avoid a runoff.

The announcement provoked a wave of huge demonstrations and attacks on election facilities on Monday night. Protesters took to the streets again on Tuesday night in La Paz and other cities.

Many chanted “Fraud, fraud, fraud!”

Election observers from the Organization of American States, which deployed a large mission to monitor the vote, issued a withering assessment of the integrity on the process on Monday night. The mission said that the trend reversal between Sunday and Monday was at odds with independent tallies of the results and asserted that the outcome warranted a second round.

As of Wednesday morning, with nearly 97 percent of the ballots counted, the latest official count showed Mr. Morales with 46.5 percent of the vote, about 9.5 points ahead of Mr. Mesa.

Union leaders and activists called for a strike on Wednesday to protest what they regard as Mr. Morales’s attempt to steal the election.

The legitimacy of Mr. Morales’s mere candidacy was in dispute well before the vote. The president in 2016 convened a referendum seeking to do away with term limits. Voters narrowly rejected that effort. But a year later, the country’s constitutional court ruled that term limits violated an international human rights treaty from the 1960s, a decision questioned by many experts.

As of Wednesday morning, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal had not issued a final comprehensive count of the vote. Concerns about the fairness of the process grew when Antonio Costas, a vice president on the tribunal, resigned in protest over his colleague’s decision to stop issuing periodic vote tally updates on Monday, breaking with what had been the norm in previous elections.

A few hours before his resignation was announced, Mr. Costas said in an interview on Tuesday that he had no reason to believe fraud had been committed.

The president’s rival, Mr. Mesa, has called for mobilizations across the country, saying he fears that Morales loyalists could be working to rig the vote behind the scenes.



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