Bolivia began Tuesday in violence after preliminary presidential election results gave victory to President Evo Morales against challenger Carlos Mesa.
Results show Morales winning by a 46.85% to 36.84% margin.
Local newspaper La Razon reported that the Bolivian Supreme Electoral Court (TSE) renewed its “quick” count after the country’s top electoral authority stopped it for 24 hours, giving a contradictory result to the data delivered Sunday night.
Protests and violence erupted in nine capital cities with electoral buildings burned and looting elsewhere after information delivered by the Fast and Safe Transmission of Proceedings indicated Morales won the first run-off.
Some offices of the Electoral Departmental Court (TED) were set on fire in the constitutional capital of Sucre and in the southern city of Potosi, where two people threw themselves from the second floor of a building to escape fire.
The commercial center of Santa Cruz saw an indefinite strike called from noon Tuesday, and in Tarija, the offices of the TED were looted and documentation burned.
In La Paz, the political capital, clashes were registered between groups of Morales’ supporters against Mesa’s backers.
People tried to enter to the Real Plaza hotel, where TSE officials were counting votes. After the police dispersed them, the violence moved to the main headquarters of the electoral body.
In Oruro city. people burned the headquarters of the Morales’ political party, Movement to Socialism (MAS), while in Cochabamba police officers had to disperse a group of protesters.
On Monday, supporters of the Mesa’s party Citizen Community surrounded the building where vote counting took place with the intention of taking the building.
Government Minister Carlos Romero held Mesa responsible for acts of violence and said he will be responsible for what happens.
“Particularly Carlos Mesa, on a recurring basis, is calling for violence and confrontation. The one who calls for violence will take charge of the violence, which can generate terrible consequences against people, institutions, public and private assets,” Romero said.
After learning about the new results of the Fast and Safe Transmission of Proceedings, which would rule out a second run-off, Mesa said the Movement to Socialism, Morales’ party, is stealing the election from him and the Bolivian people.
“It turns out that the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, in a new shameful act, steals the election by order of Evo Morales; I want to denounce this situation and I want to tell you as a representative of the Citizen Community but in this case, as a Democrat, that we are not going to recognize your results that are part of a shameful fraud,” he said.
The Electoral Observation Mission of the Organization of American States (OAS) in Bolivia requested that the will of the citizens be respected.
In a statement, the group expressed its “deep concern and surprise about the dramatic and hard to justify change on the trend of the preliminary results after de polls close.”
“This electoral process has been given under very complex conditions. During this electoral observation, OAS’s Electoral Observation Mission has witnessed the clear inequity among the nominations. It has been notorious the use of public resources during the campaign,” highlighted the body.
It urged the electoral authority to “defend firmly the will of the Bolivian citizens with strict adherence to the Constitution and its complementary laws in an agile and transparent way.”
The OAS detailed that at 07.40 p.m. local time (2340GMT) Sunday, the TSE published the results of the Transmission of Preliminary Electoral Results (TREP), with figures that clearly signaled to a run-off, “a trend that coincided with the only authorized quick count and with the statistical exercise of the mission. Our information was shared today with the TSE and Chancellery”.
It added that the TSE stopped publishing preliminary results by decision taken for the total members of the TSE with more than 80% of the ballots scrutinized. “[Twenty-four] hours later, the TSE presented data with an inexplicable change of trend that drastically modifies the faith of the vote and generates loss of confidence in the electoral process.”
Morales Ayma will meet Tuesday with the leaders of the National Coordinator for Change (CONALCAM) at the presidential palace Casa Grande del Pueblo to discuss the situation that faces the country.
*Juan Felipe Velez Rojas and Daniela Alejandra Mendoza Valero from Colombia, Beyza Binnur Donmez from Ankara contributed to the story