Author : Charlotte Spieker
Following the Bolivian elections, which were held on the 20th october of 2019, thousands of people have been gathering in the streets to protest the current president Evo Morales.
Evo Morales has been the president of Bolivia for three terms, since 2006, and is the first indigenous president. Usually a presidency in Bolivia can only go on for two terms because of the term limit, however, Morales renamed Bolivia in his first term as president to be able to run for president two more times. Afterwards, in 2016 Morales held a referendum to stop the term limits, which the people denied by more than 50%. Nevertheless, even though the people voted “no” Morales gained the right to run for president for a fourth time through the high court, with the help of the Organisation of American States, which claimed it was his human right.
In his presidency Morales has helped improve Bolivia’s social and economic conditions. He has also invested a lot in rural areas, by building new hospitals and streets to provide better access to smaller communities. However, corruption scandals in Morales’s administration have tainted his presidency, like the mismanagement of money (e.g.building an expensive palace), or the silencing of the opposition. As well as him disregarding the people’s choice to not let him run for a fourth term as president in the presidential race of 2019.
This race was held between the two strongest candidates, Evo Morales (with the Movement for Socialism) and Carlos Mesa (with the Civic Community).
To win the two-round presidential race in Bolivia in the first round one of the candidates has to either receive more than 50% of the votes, or gain more than 40% of the votes with a 10% head start to the next candidate. If neither of these conditions is met the second round of the election has to take place between the top two candidates.
In the latest elections (2019) the preliminary vote-count was announced on the evening of the elections, the 20th october, with 83% of the votes counted it seemed like the second round between Morales and Mesa was unavoidable. When the announcements of the vote-count were suddenly put to a halt for 24 hours. Thereafter, Morales declared his victory and the vote-count followed with Morales being 10% ahead of Mesa.
Due to this halt in the announcements and the sudden direction change of the election outcome, skepticism was raised in the country and also internationally. Allegations of fraud have been raised by the people and Morales’ opposition, which he however, denies. Adding to the suspicions is the appointment of the electoral tribunal, which happened through the ruling party (Morales’s party).
International voices, like the European and the Organisation of American States’ Electoral Tribunal (the OAS), and opposition candidate Mesa have demanded to hold the second round of the election.
Moreover did the OAS call for a recount of the votes, to which Morales agreed. The OAS started the audit on the 31st october of 2019, which will take about three weeks to finish. Observers from other countries were invited to the audit.
Due to the suspected fraud in the elections many people in Bolivia have been gravely upset, there have been ongoing protests asking for a second round and even for Morales to step down. Protesters claim that their voices, once again, have been ignored. The protests include road blockades, closing of stores and markets, vandalism and demonstrations on the street. It has also come to violent clashes between the supporters of Morales and Mesa, and between the protesters and police forces.
Morales answered to protests against him, which he claims is a planned coup attempt against him, by sending out his forces and blocking roads to limit the food supply, to get the people under his control again.
At the moment there is no possibility of knowing how long the situation will remain this way.