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Bolivia’s Evo Morales is big on Sunday’s election



He is not on the ballot, but former President Evo Morales is big on Bolivia’s expectations national election Sunday.

The socialist fire and long-time United States opponent remains in exile in neighboring Argentina after resigning under military pressure following a controversial vote last year, when he demanded a controversial fourth term. In the office.

But his political party, which features former Morales economic minister as its presidential candidate, is leading the polls in advancing a new 11 million Andean nation.

Sunday̵

7;s contest drew poll observers from around the world. Some have called the election – which also includes contests for the national legislature – the most important in the country’s modern history.

“It was a huge moment for Bolivia, precisely because of what happened in last year’s election,” said John Walsh, a Washington Office analyst in Latin America. “Everyone sees it as having a huge, even if there are stakes for the country. … And if people are driven by protests and violence because they think the election was stolen from them, it can be very ugly, very fast. ”

Authorities are on the alert amid fears that a near or disputed vote could spark new unrest in the streets.

An economic downturn – the collapse of pandemic coronavirus and depressed commodity prices – has prompted many Bolivians to seek the return of the so-called “Evonomics,” a combination of social welfare payments , public works projects and a general hands-off approach to businesses that saw the Bolivian economy grow steadily during Morales’ nearly 14-year tenure. High prices for commodities, especially natural gas, boosted economic growth in a country that has long been among the poorest and most volatile in Latin America.

As his critics criticized him as a left-wing autocrat, for many Bolivians, Morales’ tenure stood there is a big difference in the current difficult times of the country.

“With the Evo government we were better off, there was economic security, unlike today,” said Rosa Machaca, 43, a fruit vendor on the streets of the capital. “Now there are families who do not have enough to eat.”

Sunday’s election was an official re-run of the controversial vote, which ultimately saw Morales drop even though he had the most votes in his bid for the fourth consecutive term. A court decision allowed him to run even though voters in a national referendum said he should not seek a fourth term.

Bolivia’s high military command prompted him to leave the office after weeks of street protests over alleged voting fraud, which he refused. Morales called the outcome a U.S.-backed coup, but Washington denied any involvement in his resignation.

A right-wing lawmaker, Jeanine Añez, succeeded Morales as interim president, a move Morales called illegal. Añez famously endorsed a Bible as he was sworn in as president, a broad anti-secular, left-wing Morales leader. The Trump administration applauded the departure of Morales, a fan of Fidel Castro and Hugo Chávez who rose from humble backgrounds as union leaders representing coca leaf growers, the raw ingredient of cocaine.

Legislators later vacated last year’s vote results and scheduled a new election.

But Añez, a brave elite of the country’s economy, will never get the power of the election beyond his base leaning. In tackling the economy, he fell into a career last month.

Now the interim president – accused of illegal repression of the pro-Morales camp – has accepted the so-called “anyone except MAS” strategy, after Spain’s acronym of Morales’ political bloc, Movement Towards Socialism.

“We need to vote responsibly for the most lucrative candidates, those who will beat Evo Morales,” Añez said this week.

Morales’ decision to run in last year’s election shunned even though many fans are worried about the president’s possible aspirations for life. But Morales maintains a solid basis of support, especially among the indigenous, poor and working class who make up the majority of Bolivia.

Calls from Añez and other Morales opponents have not yet removed the appeal of the former president, who in 2005 became the first native Bolivia to be elected president.

The current running for the presidency against the presidency, according to polls, is Luis Arce, 57, a former banker who served as Morales’ economic minister.

With the closing of his campaign this week , Arce went to the streets of El Alto, a working-class and above all a native suburb of the capital, a fortress of Morales.

“We lived through a bloody coup, a nightmare in which people suffered pain, mourning and starvation,” Arce told the crowd. “Racism, discrimination and arrogance are back. … They thought they would kill MAS, but in Alto we say, ‘Here we are! Life!'”

Opponents denied Arce as a puppet of Morales, who, even in exile, remains the leader of MAS, the largest coalition political force in the country.

While the polls in Bolivia may not be smooth, a recent poll showed Arce early about one-third of the presidential vote in a field of five candidates. His closest challenge is former President Carlos Mesa, 67, of the right-wing Citizen Community party, with nearly a quarter of the vote, according to polling firm Ciesmori.

Bolivian election law stipulates that a presidential candidate must win a majority, or at least get 40% of the vote with 10 points ahead of his or her nearest challenge, to be declared a winner in first round.

Mesa is relying on support from many Bolivians who were sidelined by last year’s voting damage, both on Sunday and in a second prospective voting phase in November, where MAS opponents could join.

The pandemic forced some postponement of the election scheduled for Sunday.

“I just hope democracy succeeds in these elections,” said Johnny Antezana, 38, a businessman here. “We have experienced an institutional crisis. And and I don’t think people can support greater uncertainty.”

From his exile in Argentina, where he was given political status for refugees, Morales has given confidence in a resounding victory for his political protégé, Arce. He promised to return to Bolivia “the next day” after his ally’s expected victory, despite warrants of arrest against him for sedition and terrorism.

“I am sure, brethren, that you will not forsake me,” Morales said last month in a message to fellow Bolivians. “Let’s win again.”

Times columnist McDonnell reports from Mexico City and special correspondent Padilla from La Paz.




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