Observers from the Organisation of American States (OAS) have expressed concern over the apparent moves to fix the outcome of last week’s Presidential election in Bolivia. Incumbent President Evo Morales was declared the winner with 47.07% of the votes cast. His main opponent Carlos Mesa was declared to have won 36.51%.
Bolivia’s electoral system declares that a person can win the presidential vote either by gaining more than 50% or by winning more than 40% and being at least 10% ahead of his or her nearest challenger in the first round.
The first batch of results showed Morales leading his main opponent Carlos Mesa by 45.3% to 38.2% after 84% of the polling stations had reported. Although in the lead, this result would not give Mr Morales enough of a margin to claim victory and the contest would have to go to a second round on December 15th.
There was then a pause in result announcements which the OAS called suspicious. When results started coming in again, the figures had been revised so that Morales led Mesa by 46.4% to 37.1% with 95% of the votes counted. The final result announcement declared Morales the winner by a sufficient margin to avoid a run-off. Supporters of Mr Morales, the first indigenous president, suggested that the last votes to be counted, from remote rural areas, had heavily favoured their candidate.
In a statement, the OAS called for a second round to be held to restore trust in the process and said it had:
“deep concern and surprise at the drastic and hard-to-explain change in the trend of the preliminary results revealed after the closing of the polls”
Opposition activists took to the streets and cited pictures of ballot boxes stuffed with papers abandoned in the streets and stacked in warehouses as evidence of fraud.
The United States weighed into the debate with Acting Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere, Michael Kozak, tweeting:
“The U.S. rejects the Electoral Tribunal’s attempts to subvert #Bolivia‘s democracy by delaying the vote count & taking actions that undermine the credibility of Bolivia’s elections.”