Bolivia’s Morales leads presidential election, but runoff likely

Bolivia’s Morales leads presidential election, but runoff likely

Bolivia’s President and presidential candidate Evo Morales of the Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) party is greeted by supporters as he arrives to vote during the presidential election at a polling station in a school in Villa 14 de Septiembre, in the Chapare region, Bolivia, October 20, 2019. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino

LA PAZ (Reuters) – Bolivian President Evo Morales led Sunday’s election, but did not have enough votes to avoid a potentially risky runoff with chief rival Carlos Mesa in December, a preliminary count of nearly 84% of official results by the electoral board showed.

Morales, 59, South America’s longest-serving leftist leader, won 45% of votes, compared with Mesa’s 38%, according to the partial count, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal said late on Sunday.

Morales needed at least 40% of votes with a 10-point lead over the runner-up to win outright. The final winner in the election will govern Bolivia, a landlocked country of 11 million people, from 2020 to 2025.

The results indicated that Morales would head to a second-round vote for the first time since sweeping to power in 2006, giving him his weakest mandate if he defeats Mesa in December.

Morales is running in defiance of term limits and despite a 2016 referendum in which Bolivians voted against allowing him to seek a fourth consecutive term. A local court ruling allowed him to run anyway. As he did in the 2014 election, Morales has promised to retire after the five-year term is over.

He has managed to hang onto power as most other leftist presidents in South America elected in the previous decade have since been succeeded by right-leaning leaders.

The former union leader for coca growers has overseen a long stretch of political and economic stability for Bolivia, the continent’s poorest country.

But support for him has slipped amid slowing economic growth and concerns about government corruption and anti-democratic practices.

Reporting by Daniel Ramos and Mitra Taj in La Paz; Editing by Bill Berkrot and Peter Cooney


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