Oct 21, 2019

Bolivia's election mystery: Vote tallies stop with Morales facing runoff

Evo Morales. Photo: John Duran/Getty Images

Election returns from Bolivia last night showed President Evo Morales falling short of the 10% margin needed to avoid a run-off — until they stopped showing anything at all.

Zoom out: Morales became the Andean nation's first indigenous president in 2006 and has been in power ever since, overseeing solid economic growth and the consolidation of control over institutions and much of the media.

  • A left-wing survivor on a continent that has swung to the right, Morales lost a referendum in 2016 over whether he could even seek a fourth term. But in his telling, he's back on the ballot by popular demand.

"Such has been his influence as president that many people from across the political spectrum describe him as Bolivia’s equivalent to Turkey’s Mustafa Kemal Ataturk — someone who 'refounded' a nation," writes the FT's Andres Schipani, who spent a day with Morales on the campaign trail.

  • "Critics argue that his ego is becoming out of control — reflected in the construction of a new 25-storey presidential palace in La Paz and a museum in his birthplace to honour him."
  • "But he dismisses the idea that a cult of personality has grown up around his presidency. 'I am still a humble man, nothing has changed, you can judge for yourself,' he says."

Zoom in: Morales was leading his main challenger, former president Carlos Mesa, by a 45%-38% margin with 84% of the vote in, per the BBC.

  • Morales continued to insist he'd won a new term outright, leading to fears he planned to use shady means to block a high-risk December run-off.
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