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Elections in Bolivia: what you need to know about the race and prospects

The General Elections in Bolivia will be held on October 18. According to the latest polls, the candidate who has the best chance to take the presidency is of the party “Movement to Socialism” – Luis Arce. Under what conditions does the electoral campaign take place? Who do Bolivians intend to vote for today?

On July 3, the President of the Bolivian Supreme Electoral Court, Salvador Romero (Spanish – Salvador Romero Ballivián), announced that the date of the General Elections in the country, due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus, was again shifted to October 18. After the announcement of this news about the next postponement (for the third time) of the elections, from July 31, social movements began mass strikes, blockades of roads between the regions of the country (about 100 points), preventing the supply of not only food products, but also the transportation of oxygen and medicines in the conditions of the sanitary crisis.

Strikes in La Paz, August 2020. Source: news agency “Cuba En Resumen”

The transitional government of Jeanine Áñez (Spanish – Jeanine Áñez Chávez) regarded such actions as an attempt by representatives of the “Movement to Socialism” (Spanish – Movimiento al Socialismo, MAS) and supporters of the former President Evo Morales (Spanish – Juan Evo Morales Ayma) to organize riots and carry out political propaganda. However, Morales denied such accusations and claimed that the protest marches were organized by public associations. On August 12, he appealed to his supporters, and asked to accept a new voting date, set for October 18.

On 13 August, amid general fatigue and the sanitary crisis, the parties managed to agree: The Plurinational Legislative Assembly passed a law setting October 18 as the final date for the elections. During 13 days there are “turbulence” and uncertainty about what could happen in the country in the next few hours and days. In addition, all protest marches took place under strict quarantine measures.

Against the backdrop of the acute social and sanitary crisis, the electoral campaign of the candidates, which officially started in Bolivia on September 6, began to gain momentum. In connection with this date, the consulting company “Ciesmori” conducted a public opinion poll reflecting the proposed balance of power in the upcoming General Elections. It should be noted that in the context of the ongoing quarantine measures in the country, the electoral race this time takes place in a virtual format: candidates present their programs through various television channels and Internet platforms.

La Razon
Opinion poll results of the consulting company “Ciesmori”, September 2020, Source: newspaper “La Rázon”

Despite numerous accusations against the former head of state, Evo Morales, the candidate from his party “Movement to Socialism” – Luis Arce (Spanish – Luis Alberto Arce Catacora) – is in the lead, according to this poll, with a score of 26.2%. The second place according to forecasts is still held by the Bolivian statesman, journalist and historian Carlos Mesa (Spanish – Carlos Diego Mesa Gisbert) from the political bloc “Civil Society” (Spanish – Comunidad Ciudadana). 17.1% of respondents are ready to vote for his candidacy.

The head of the current transitional government, Jeanine Áñez, came in third with a score of 10.4%, having lost 6.5% of support since a similar survey by the consulting company “Ciesmori” (16.9% of those surveyed supported her candidacy in March). International observers associate such a drop in the rating of the acting president with the fact that over these months her government was unable to withstand the sanitary crisis provoked by the pandemic, as well as to develop effective economic measures to support the population.

The fourth place, according to the public opinion poll, with the result of 6.9% of support is taken by the Bolivian lawyer, businessman and politician from the department of Santa Cruz, the leader of the religious-political coalition “Believe” (Spanish – Creemos) – Luis Camacho (Spanish – Luis Fernando Camacho). Other candidates for the post of head of state were unable to cross the 4% barrier, and therefore the aforementioned pretenders are the main favorites of the electoral race.

Salvador Romero TSE
President of the Supreme Electoral Court of Bolivia Salvador Romero

According to the current Political Constitution of Bolivia, a 10% gap guarantees a candidate’s victory in the first round. Nevertheless, based on the results of the poll, there is no candidate capable of “canceling” the second round of voting, which, if held in November, unless there is. However, supporters of the “Movement to Socialism” believe that their candidate will be able to earn more support from voters, since this poll was conducted mainly in large cities and does not fully reflect the mood of the rural population, among which Evo Morales’ party occupies a strong leading position.

Against the background of a new round of political struggle on September 7, it became known that the ex-President of Bolivia will not be able to take part as a candidate from the Department of Cochabamba for the “chair” of the Senator of the Plurinational Legislative Assembly. On September 7, a constitutional hearing was held, at the conclusion of which the Judge Alfredo Jaimes decided to reject the motion of Morales’ lawyers. So, the February decision of the Bolivian Supreme Electoral Court, which then rejected the candidacy of the former president, remains in effect.

The former head of state was disqualified on the basis of failure to comply with the requirement for permanent residence in the country (after his resignation last November, Morales left the country and went to Mexico, and then to Argentina, which granted him refugee status). However, in addition to removing the leader of the “Movement to Socialism” party from the electoral process, he has already been charged with a number of accusations: falsification of the results of the last October elections; organizing riots and protests in August this year amid the sanitary crisis in Bolivia; as well as an intimate relationship with a minor girl, who at that time was 17 years old.

At the moment, the electoral campaign in Bolivia is still one of the most discussed topics in the region. A number of well-known regional analysts believe that if the opposition of the “Movement to Socialism” party fails in the end to compromise and unite, Bolivia will again be able to return to the “left” orientation. However, it is already obvious that the government, which will occupy the Presidential Palace in the coming months, will get a very difficult political legacy, as well as a whole “baggage” of socio-economic problems.

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