Mon, Oct 21, 2019 - Page 5 News List

Bolivia’s Morales faces tough fight for fourth term

AP, LA PAZ

Indigenous people in El Alto on Saturday walk near a column with campaign posters for Bolivian President Evo Morales, who is seeking a fourth term.

Photo: AFP

Bolivians voted yesterday to decide whether to give leftist Bolivian President Evo Morales a controversial fourth term or turn their backs on the country’s first indigenous leader amid allegations of corruption and authoritarianism.

Morales’ popularity has been waning and unlike his previous three election victories, opinion polls say this one is likely to go to an unprecedented second round runoff on Dec. 15.

The latest shows Morales with 32 percent of the vote, while his main challenger, former Bolivian president Carlos Mesa, has 27 percent.

In an eve-of-poll message on Twitter, Morales called on voters to participate “peacefully and actively” in the elections.

Mesa said he feared the elections would be fraudulent because of Morales’ powerful grip on key organs of state, and expressed his concerns in a meeting with observers from the Organization of American States.

Morales said the maturity of Bolivia’s electorate would make yesterday’s polls a triumph of democracy which would be “an example for delegations and observers who visit us.”

Morales, who will turn 60 next week, is already the longest-serving president in Bolivian history, having been at the helm for 13 years, but he stands accused of corruption and many are enraged at his refusal to step aside, even though the constitution bars him from running.

“Power has replaced policies aimed at the whole population by others that only serve the interests of certain sectors,” political commentator Maria Teresa Zegada said.

“Opposition leaders have been persecuted, all of which has caused citizens unease and given the impression that democracy was in danger,” Zegada said.

Mesa has no party of his own, but is backed by a minor center-left party.

He also has support from a collective of other small parties.

Bolivia’s 2009 constitution, promulgated by Morales himself, limits a president to two consecutive terms of office.

In a 2016 referendum, voters defeated Morales’ bid to secure public support to remove term limits, but his government rejected the result and the constitutional court, stacked with Morales loyalists, ruled it was his right to seek re-election.

Bolivia’s 7.3 million electorate were also to vote for members of the 136-seat congress.

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