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.

Go deeper

Mexico grants asylum to Evo Morales, Bolivia's outgoing president

Photo: Alexis Demarco/APG/Getty Images

Mexico will grant asylum to Evo Morales, who stepped down as Bolivia's president yesterday after 14 years in power, Mexican Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard announced this evening.

Why it matters: Bolivia has been engulfed in protests since an Oct. 20 election which Morales claimed to have won by a large enough margin to avoid a runoff, but which observers said was marred by irregularities. After stepping down, Morales claimed to be the victim of a coup.

Go deeperArrowNov 11, 2019

Morales leaves for Mexico amid unrest on Bolivia's streets

People gesture at policemen as they patrol the streets in La Paz, Bolivia on Monday night. Photo: Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP via Getty Images

Evo Morales, who's stepped down as Bolivia's president, departed for Mexico Monday night after tweeting that he had accepted the country's offer of political asylum amid violent clashes between pro- and anti-Morales groups, Reuters reports.

Why it matters: Bolivia is now in a "political vacuum" and facing its "worst unrest in decades," per AP, which reports Morales loyalists set barricades alight to "block some roads leading to the country's main airport" as anti-Morales protesters obstructed the majority of streets near the front of the presidential palace and congressional building over Monday night.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Nov 12, 2019

Bolivia's post-election turmoil reflects fall from grace for Morales

Evo Morales. Photo: Fotoholica Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

Bolivia is poised between electoral uncertainty and political turmoil amid growing concerns that election day fraud may deny opposition candidate Carlos Mesa the chance to face incumbent president Evo Morales in a December 15 runoff.

The big picture: The Supreme Court's controversial decision to let Morales run for another term set a disillusioned backdrop for Sunday's vote, following a 2016 citizen's referendum that had disapproved of the rule change. Polling suggests a runoff could boost Mesa's chances, making Bolivian voters who already harbor doubts about the transparency of the electoral system even less likely to accept a first-round Morales victory.

Go deeperArrowOct 23, 2019