Socialist Luis Arce will be Bolivia’s next president, after his large presidential victory, while his mentor, ex-president Evo Morales, announced his return from Argentina “sooner or later” to his country.
• Read also: Bolivia: Luis Arce, dolphin of Evo Morales, winner of the presidential election
Mr. Arce, the candidate of the Movement towards Socialism (MAS), the party founded by Mr. Morales, won the presidential election in the first round on Sunday with more than 52% of the vote, according to several exit polls from the offices of vote.
While the official results were still not known on Monday, the counting of the ballots advancing very slowly, the main rival of Mr. Arce, the former centrist president Carlos Mesa (2003-2005), acknowledged the ” wide ”victory of his opponent.
“The result is (…) very clear,” Mesa said of polling exit polls that give Luis Arce a lead of around 20 points. “It is up to us, as it befits those of us who believe in democracy (…) to recognize that there was a winner in this election,” he added.
The interim president, the conservative Jeanine Añez, a fierce opponent of the MAS candidate, had already recognized his victory on Sunday evening.
Despite the pandemic, the turnout was 87%, a record, according to the Supreme Electoral Court.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, meanwhile, hailed “peaceful elections”, calling on all Bolivian political leaders to work for “national reconciliation”.
Upon the announcement of his triumph, Luis Arce considered that Bolivia had “returned to democracy” and “found hope”.
For the first time in 20 years, Evo Morales, an iconic leader of the South American left, was not a presidential candidate.
The former head of state (2006-2019), the first indigenous president of his country, resigned in November 2019, accused of electoral fraud by the opposition, before fleeing to Mexico and then to Argentina.
In the previous election in October 2019, during which he was running for a fourth term, the counting was suspended for more than 20 hours. Upon his resumption, Evo Morales was declared the winner in the first round.
The opposition then shouted fraud, clashes broke out between supporters and detractors of the head of state. Dropped by the police and the army, the latter had finally resigned.
“In my area”
In the aftermath of Mr. Arce’s victory, Evo Morales announced that he would return home quickly.
“Sooner or later, we will return to Bolivia (…) My great wish is to return to Bolivia, to my region”, declared Mr. Morales during a press conference in Buenos Aires where he lives.
He also said that the future Bolivian government would maintain diplomatic relations with all countries, including the United States, which has had no ambassador in La Paz since 2008.
“If the United States wants to renew diplomatic relations, welcome. But that they respect us, that they respect the dignity and the sovereignty of the people ”, declared Mr. Morales.
“We are awaiting the official results, but President Trump and the United States look forward to working with those elected by the Bolivians,” a spokesperson for the US State Department said.
After a year of a serious post-election crisis, the ballot took place in peace, as many Bolivians feared a repeat of the violence that left 36 people dead last year.
Luis Arce “was a great minister, now that he is president, the economy will be flourishing”, welcomed Monday to AFP Ada Mary Medrano, an 18-year-old student.
Luis Arce obtained 52.4% of the vote, against 31.5% for Carlos Mesa, according to a Unitel channel poll. Another poll by the Jubileo Catholic Foundation credits the socialist with 53% of the vote, against 30.8% for his rival.
The victory of the dolphin of Evo Morales has been hailed by many left-wing leaders in Latin America, from Cuba to Nicaragua, via Venezuela, Argentina and Mexico.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro “congratulated the brotherly people of Bolivia on the occasion of the broad and indisputable triumph of the Movement towards Socialism (MAS)” and the “resounding victory” of Luis Arce.
This “is not only good news for those of us who defend democracy in Latin America, it is also an act of justice in the face of the aggression suffered by the Bolivian people,” the president wrote on Twitter. Argentinian Alberto Fernandez.