The results in Bolivia challenge the 2019 electoral fraud thesis and legitimize Evo Morales | International

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The preliminary results of the general elections in Bolivia place the country in the starting box a year ago. The Movement to Socialism (MAS), the party of former president Evo Morales, wins without having to hold a second round. Former Minister Luis Arce achieved, according to the data of the rapid scrutiny, a comfortable victory against his main adversary, Carlos Mesa. It also did so with at least five points more than in 2019. These numbers – which are not yet official but have been endorsed by both the president of the interim Government, Jeanine Áñez, and the Mesa himself – contrast with the thesis of fraud defended by the Organization of American States (OAS) that led to Morales' resignation and subsequent departure from the country and added legitimacy to that electoral process.

Bolivia went to the polls on October 20 last year after 14 years of the MAS government. The indigenous leader, who sought to revalidate his mandate for the fourth time, dragged weariness even in the popular sectors that had always supported him and among the young. Above all, it was presented after having lost, in 2016, a query on an indefinite re-election, the result of which was ignored by the Supreme Electoral and Constitutional Tribunal, which enabled his candidacy. The Bolivians essentially had two options: relinquish power to him or vote for Mesa.

The blackout of the count, which was interrupted for almost 24 hours, set off all the alarms during the election night. The next day, the OAS was already expressing doubts about the cleanliness of the elections. The pressure of the general secretary of the organization, Luis Almagro, was growing. And by the time, four days later, the final results that gave him a victory without the need for a runoff in the second round were known, the country was on the verge of a social outbreak. Protests by opposition groups, spurred especially by ultra-conservative leader Luis Fernando Camacho, and clashes with MAS sympathizers plunged Bolivia into chaos for weeks. In early November, Morales lost the confidence of the Armed Forces, submitted his resignation and left the country for Mexico before receiving asylum in Argentina.

While the OAS was preparing an audit of the elections, Senator Jeanine Áñez assumed the presidency, according to a highly criticized interpretation of the Constitution. The clashes escalated and dozens of people died in the clashes with the security forces. The purpose of the interim government had to be to renew the electoral authority and call elections as soon as possible. They were convened first for May, then in September and finally held a year later, according to authorities due to complications related to the coronavirus pandemic. The result of the OAS audit was harshly questioned by other international organizations. To this was added the revanchist management of the most right-wing members of the Cabinet, such as the Minister of Government, Arturo Murillo. Several MAS leaders had to leave the country or seek refuge in diplomatic legations, and at Christmas there was an incident with Bolivian police officers during the visit of Spanish officials to the Mexican Embassy in La Paz, where members of the deposed government were asylum seekers.

Morales was charged with terrorism for his actions in 2019, which for human rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch (HRW) was a disproportionate charge. In the months prior to these elections, in addition, the ruling party tried to disqualify the candidacy of Luis Arce with a lawsuit for disseminating polls against electoral regulations. That attempt was unsuccessful, but Bolivians elected their new president on Sunday in a climate of enormous division, a gap exacerbated by the specter of violence and social unrest. Finally, the partial results legitimize the MAS again in an election that had become a kind of plebiscite on the legacy of Evo Morales.

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