The interim president of Bolivia, Jeanine Añez, He asked for “patience” and to avoid violent acts given the slowness of the delivery of the results of the elections this Sunday to elect a new president, almost a year after the resignation of the socialist Evo Morales in the midst of a social upheaval.
“Patience, we must all have patience to wait for the results without generating any type of violent events,” Añez said in a television message after the closing of the polling stations after nine hours of voting.
Congratulating the Bolivian people for the “participatory and peaceful” day, the European Union also asked to wait for the results “avoiding any provocation or violent action that damages or attempts to distort the current electoral process,” he said in a statement.
The dissemination of results is expected to be slow after the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) suspended its quick count system, in order to guarantee the fidelity of the data.
“I assure you, we will have credible results,” said Añez, who abandoned his presidential candidacy after being questioned about his management of the covid-19 pandemic, which leaves 8,500 deaths and 140,000 infections.
The leftist Luis Arce and the centrist Carlos Mesa, favorites in the presidential race, expressed their doubts about the TSE’s decision, amid fears that a social unrest such as the one that occurred after the October 2019 elections, canceled by allegations of fraud, and that ended with the resignation of Morales, who for the first time in two decades, was excluded from the electoral contest.
After voting in La Paz, Arce – Morales’ former Minister of Economy – said that he did not “find it very wise” to suspend the quick count hours before the election.
“It is not ideal, but we understand that [el Tribunal] it has chosen the path of guaranteeing the absolute security of the vote, ”said former President Mesa (2003-2005), of the Citizen Community party.
Despite the fears, the Vice Minister of Citizen Security, Wilson Santamaria, assured that there was a “quiet day throughout the country.”
Security and biosecurity
Indeed, the 7.3 million voters went to the polls calmly despite the tensions of the campaign, with the cities under military and police protection.
People were also respectful of the biosecurity measures due to the pandemic, which slowed down the voting and took away the festive dye of other times, with stalls selling typical food, ice cream, balloons, games for children and music outside the polling stations.
“Whoever wins, we must continue working, we cannot continue to harm ourselves like the last election,” 26-year-old student Cristian Guaichu told Agence France-Presse.
In this country with 41% indigenous population, people lined up, seated and with physical distance from dawn, in places like Huarina, a town on the shores of Lake Titicaca, 70 km from La Paz.
“I would like the next president to be a candidate that helps the countryside, the poor people,” Silverio Chirinos, a 69-year-old farmer, told AFP there.
“It is the end of a cycle of the government of Evo Morales and of the political crisis. A process to strengthen the institutions is expected to begin, ”political scientist Carlos Cordero, from the Bolivian Catholic University, told AFP.
At the same time, the Andean country is going through its deepest economic crisis in almost 40 years, with a forecast contraction of GDP of 6.2% in 2020.
The tone of the campaign, with threats from the Movement to Socialism (MAS, de Morales) to mobilize in the face of possible “fraud” and the spread of false news, generated fears of new riots.
The fears are due to in the 2019 elections, the quick count was suspended for more than 20 hours and when Morales resumed he appeared with a jump that made him the winner in the first round. The OAS electoral mission affirmed that there was manipulation.
For three weeks the opposition and government supporters took over the streets with violent clashes, which left 30 dead. Morales lost the support of the armed forces and resigned.
To guarantee the transparency of these elections, the TSE was purged and international observer missions arrived, urging calm. The UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, urged “respecting the results.”
And Morales, disabled both to vote and to run for the Senate, asked from Argentina, where he is in exile, that “the result of the elections be respected by all” and “let’s wait calmly for each of the votes (…) to be taken consider”.
He also promised that he will return to Bolivia “the next day” if Arce wins.
The former indigenous president has several legal cases open in Bolivia, from electoral fraud to pedophilia.
This Sunday, the 166 seats in the bicameral Congress are also renewed and analysts predict that the MAS will lose its majority in favor of the Mesa and Creemos party, of the right-wing Luis Fernando Camacho, leader of the 2019 protests.