Bolivian parties have less than a month to register candidates for an election re-run designed to resolve the political crisis the country finds itself since voting irregularities brought an end to Evo Morales’ 14-year government.
Candidates must be submitted to the electoral authority by February 3 for the vote that will take place three months later. All parties are allowed to run, including Morales’ Movement to Socialism, or MAS, according to Salvador Romero, president of the top electoral court.
Morales fled the country on November 11 amid street protests against the result of the contested election that gave him a fourth mandate. The vote was marred by irregularities and manipulation, according to a report by the Organisation of American States (OAS). Bolivia issued an arrest order against the leftist leader, who now lives in Argentina under the protection of the government of President Alberto Fernández.
This time, an OAS mission will come early to Bolivia to provide technical support and ensure the problems of the October 20 election don’t happen again. It will be involved in the entire process from now through the May 3 election, Bolivia’s ambassador to the OAS, Jaime Aparicio, was quoted as saying by the official news agency ABI.
Bolivia’s interim government led by Jeanine Añez wants the current legislature, still controlled by MAS, to remain in office to avoid a power vacuum and to approve an electoral reform – including a rule forcing presidential candidates to participate in campaign debates. MAS has recognised Añez’s interim administration, even as Morales has said he suffered a coup.
Yet Añez’s aggressive moves to wrest Bolivia from its alliance with Cuba and Venezuela may prove ephemeral as MAS remains popular in a fragmented field.
A January 2 poll released by television broadcaster Unitel put the party’s unnamed candidate in first place with 20.7 percent, followed by Añez with 15.6 percent. She has ruled out participating in the vote, however. Carlos Mesa, Morales’ leading challenger in October, was third with 13.8 percent. Should no candidate obtain more than half the votes or at least 40 percent with a 10-point margin over the runner up, a runoff vote will take place June 14. Besides the OAS, observers from the European Union and the United Nations will monitor the elections.
by Stephan Kueffner, Bloomberg