In a stunning reversal of fortune, Bolivian voters returned the party of former President Evo Morales to power one year after his ouster. The new government should use its remarkable mandate to heal wounds at home and build cross-ideological bridges in its South American neighbourhood.
After tense electoral campaign, general elections – which returned Movement toward Socialism (MAS) to power – held largely peacefully 18 Oct. MAS, party of former President Evo Morales, retained majority in both houses of Congress, while Luis Arce, its presidential candidate, secured victory with 55% of vote. Peaceful voting preceded by hostile pre-elections climate. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights office in Bolivia 2 Oct recorded at least 30 acts of violence against MAS sympathisers, other opposition parties as well as journalists between 6 Sept and 2 Oct. In country’s largest city Santa Cruz, around 5,000 people 20 Oct protested against MAS victory, accused party of fraud. Right-wing Creemos party supporters same day set up vigils near electoral tribunal departmental centres in Santa Cruz, Cochabamba and Chuquisaca departments. Morales 29 Oct said he will return to Bolivia 11 Nov, after judge 26 Oct annulled arrest warrant against him for alleged sedition and terrorism. Outgoing parliament 29 Oct approved motion recommending that outgoing interim President Jeanine Áñez and 11 of her ministers face justice for responsibility in late 2019 violence, which left around 30 dead.
Controversy over the 2019 election and its violent aftermath continues to haunt Bolivian politics. As fresh polls approach, outside actors should supply technical advice and monitoring, as well as push rival parties to pledge to keep any disputes off the streets.
President Evo Morales’s efforts to consolidate sweeping reforms on the basis of a controversial new constitution have steered Bolivia into a cul-de-sac.
Bolivia’s first indigenous president, Evo Morales, will complete a year in office on 22 January amid rising civil unrest.
The first-round victory of Evo Morales in the December 2005 presidential election profoundly altered Bolivia’s politics and the way South America’s poorest nation is seen abroad.
Amid political turmoil around Bolivia’s election last year, protesters from both sides took to the streets, and election-related violence killed at least 36 people. In this excerpt from our Watch List 2020 for European policymakers, Crisis Group urges the EU to work closely with all political parties to make sure a timely and credible presidential election takes place.
Originally published in La Razón