Morales party claims victory in Bolivia's presidential vote

Morales party claims victory in Bolivia's presidential vote

Monday, October 19, 2020

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LA PAZ, Bolivia (AP) — Evo Morales' party has claimed victory in a presidential election that appears to sharply shift Bolivia away from the conservative policies of the US-backed interim government that took power after the leftist leader resigned and fled the country a year ago.

The leading rival of Morales's handpicked successor, Luis Arce, conceded defeat on Monday, as did interim President Jeanine ez, a bitter foe of Morales.

Officials released no formal, comprehensive quick count of results from Sunday's vote, but two independent surveys of selected polling places showed Arce with a lead of roughly 20 percentage points over his closest rival — far more than needed to avoid a runoff.

ez asked Arce "to govern with Bolivia and democracy in mind."

Arce, meanwhile, appealed for calm in the bitterly divided nation saying he would seek to form a government of national unity under his Movement Toward Socialism party.

"I think the Bolivian people want to retake the path we were on," Arce declared around midnight surrounded by a small group of supporters, some of them in traditional Andean dress in honour of the country's Indigenous roots.

To win in the first round, a candidate needs more than 50 per cent of the vote, or 40 per cent with a lead of at least 10 percentage points over the second-place candidate. The independent counts, sponsored by the Catholic Church and civic groups, showed Arce with a little over 50 per cent of the vote and a roughly 20 point advantage over centrist former President Carlos Mesa, who acknowledged defeat.

The formal official count had Mesa with a 43 per cent to 38 per cent lead over Arce with 20 per cent of the vote tallied on Monday, but those votes appeared to be largely from urban areas rather than the rural heartlands that have been the base of Morales' support. Officials said final results could take days.


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