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Bolivia - 2020 - General Election

Bolivia's interim government announced on 21 March 2020 it would postpone presidential elections originally slated for May 3 and institute a mandatory countrywide quarantine for 14 days as coronavirus spread across the Andean nation. The country's electoral authority said in a statement it would "suspend the elections calendar" for 14 days to match the quarantine, but did not set a new date for the vote. The tribunal said it would work together with all of the country´s political parties and organizations to determine when to hold the election.

Interim president Jeanine Anez earlier in the day told reporters the quarantine measure would begin 22 March 2020 and extend until April 4. Bolivia earlier this week closed its borders and canceled all international flights. Anez said supermarkets, hospitals, banks and pharmacies would continue to operate as normal during the quarantine. The government would provide cash payments to needy families with children beginning in April, she said.

The President is elected by majority vote to serve a 5-year term. A candidate must receive at least 50% of the vote, or 40% of the vote and 10% more than the second candidate to be elected. Otherwise, a second round will be on December 15th with the top two finishers to determine the winner. In the Chamber of Senators (Camara de Senadores) 36 members are elected through a closed-list proportional representation system to serve 5-year terms*. In the Chamber of Deputies (Camara de Diputados), 70 members are elected by plurality vote in single-member constituencies to serve 5-year terms, 53 members are elected through a closed-list proportional representation system to serve 5-year terms and 7 members are elected by plurality vote in single-member constituencies to serve 5-year terms.

Bolivia was to go back to the polls on May 3 to elect its president and vice president and renew the Legislative Assembly, after the failed elections last October which were annulled. Óscar Hassenteufel, a member of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, said 04 January 2020 that the general elections are scheduled for 03 May 2020. There were eight presidential candidates. Four of them are running on a coalition ticket and the others are running with individual parties. Seven of them have the common goal of preventing the return of Evo Morales’ party - Movement for Socialism (MAS).

The elections will be held "on the first Sunday of May," Bolivia's Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) member Oscar Hassenteufel said briefly to the media in the city of Sucre, the constitutional capital and headquarters of the judicial body of Bolivia. The call for elections and the electoral calendar will be published next Monday, Hassenteufel added, after attending an activity of the Constitutional Court in Sucre.

In Bolivia’s October 20 elections, Evo Morales emerged as the winner after a nearly 24-hour vote count freeze. Amid concerns of election fraud, protests broke out across the country. A preliminary Organization of American States (OAS) election audit found evidence of voting irregularities and manipulation. After weeks of upheaval, Morales resigned under pressure from the military on 10 November 2019 and moved to Mexico, where he was offered political asylum. He was then granted asylum in Argentina.

However, a study published in February 2020 by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Election Data and Science Lab - commissioned by the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) - concluded it was "very likely" that Morales' victory was legitimate. "The media has largely reported the allegations of fraud as fact... However, as specialists in election integrity, we find that the statistical evidence does not support the claim of fraud in Bolivia's October election," the authors wrote in an article published by The Washington Post on 27 February 2020.

Changes in the composition of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE), along with some decisions by the full Court, had weakened electoral institutions. Worth recalling, in that regard, is the fact that in the year prior to the election, the President, Vice President, and a judge on the TSE resigned and that only two of the three were replaced. A number of technical staff in the Tribunal, some in senior positions and with ample experience, also left it.

It was especially alarming that on October 22, the Vice President of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, Antonio José Iván Costas Sitic, resigned, giving as the grounds for his resignation: "the erroneous decision by the TSE to suspend publication of the results of the Preliminary Electoral Results Transmission system (TREP)," which "triggered the discrediting of the entire electoral process, causing unnecessary social upheaval." Judge Costas' resignation further debilitates Bolivia's electoral institutions. It heightens already existing mistrust. It could also impair the Tribunal’sfunctions, now that it has to operate with two vacancies among its members, pending their replacement. The polarized atmosphere, mistrust in the arbiter of the electoral process, and its lack of transparency, as well as the unfairness committed during the campaign and the narrowness of the polling outcomes have all created serious political and social tensions.

Bolivian lawmakers on 26 November 2019 unanimously adopted legislation to establish a new Supreme Electoral Tribunal, leading to presidential elections to be held in 2020. After the country’s legislature passed a law annulling the October results, a date for special do-over elections was set for 03 May 2020. A runoff is scheduled for June 14 if no candidate wins at least 50 percent of the vote or secures at least 40 percent with a 10-point margin over the closest competitor.

A law was also pending, at the initiative of the Senate, to extend the current mandate of the Executive and the Legislative, which concludes on January 22, given the impossibility of holding elections to renew them before that date.

It will be the first election that the MAS will face without Morales as a candidate, something that that party had managed to avoid so far, Morales, who was under asylum in Argentina, announced a meeting in Buenos Aires on January 19 to elect the MAS candidates in the elections. Former president Carlos Mesa, who was Morales's main contender in the October elections, confirmed that he will run again, while civic leader Luis Fernando Camacho also plans to be a presidential candidate, although for now, he has not confirmed with what political party he will run under.

Jean Arnault, Personal Envoy of the UN Secretary-General, issued a statement on 03 February 2020 welcoming the official start of campaigning for the 3 May general elections. “Thus, a decisive stage of the electoral process and the consolidation of peace begins in Bolivia,” he said. “For this to be done successfully, citizens and candidates, regardless of their political affiliation, must be able to exercise their constitutional rights and elect and be elected with full freedom, without abuse, intimidation or discrimination of any kind. The legitimacy of the electoral process will depend on it.”

Arnault stated that carrying out the vote will be challenging, given the current political climate in Bolivia, which he described as being characterized by “an exacerbated polarization”, but also a mixture of hope, uncertainty, restlessness and resentment. “It is imperative that an unanimous call arises to debate peacefully and democratically and to avoid any action that violates the right to freedom of peaceful assembly, expression, association, opinion and circulation”, he said, adding that it also is critical to outlaw hate speech, as well as incitement to violence or discrimination.

Bolivia's coup-born government led by Jeanine Añez proposed to extend the national elections by one or two months, under the justification of preventing the coronavirus' spread. "Postponing the election for a month or two won't hurt anyone," Añez said at a press conference 17 June 2020. The decision was released as Añez asked the Senate's president Eva Copa for a study proving that it is safe to hold elections on Sep. 6. Bolivian political parties reached a consensus and decided the elections would be held on Sep. 6. Instead of accepting this, Añez avoided promulgating the call for elections to date.

Bolivians will elect a president, vice president, and all the members of the legislative assembly — 36 senators and 130 deputies. There were eight presidential candidates, four running on coalition tickets and four with individual parties.

Bolivia postponed its general elections on 23 July 2020 for a second time because of the coronavirus pandemic, putting it off until October 18, officials said. The poll was originally supposed to be held in May but had been rescheduled to September 6 after the country went into lockdown following the virus outbreak. Salvador Romero, who heads the country's electoral court, said the decision to delay the elections again came after medical experts warned that COVID-19 infections would peak in Bolivia in late August or early September. "The definitive date for the election gives better conditions for health protection, outside voting facilities and the arrival of international observer missions," said Romero.

Bolivia’s conservative interim president, Jeanine Anez, pulled out of the 18 October general election on 18 September 2020, a move that would strengthen other candidates running against the front-running socialist party of ex-leader Evo Morales. Anez said in a video message she sought to unify those opposing the candidate for the party of Morales, who resigned last year after an election sparked widespread protests.

Socialist candidate Luis Arce of the MAS party led in opinion polls, followed by centrist former President Carlos Mesa. Anez had been in fourth place. By pulling out of the race, Anez could increase chances that the election will be pushed to a second round by consolidating the anti-Arce vote. To avoid a second round, the election winner requires at least 40% of valid votes in the first round and a 10-point advantage over the closest competitor. Arce has more than 40.3% support from likely voters, according to a recent poll, while Mesa was at 26.2%, conservative anti-Morales activist Luis Fernando Camacho at 14.4% and Anez at 10.6%.

Bolivia voted in the first round of presidential elections on 18 October 2020 – 12 months after disputed polls sparked mass protests and the downfall of the country’s controversial leftist leader Evo Morales. FRANCE 24 takes a look back at the Latin American country’s year of turbulence. The frontrunners were centrist ex-president Carlos Mesa and Luis Arce, Morales’ anointed successor and candidate for his left-wing MAS party. Polling data predicts that Arce will come out on top in the October 18 first round – but without the 40 percent vote share and 10 point lead required to avoid a runoff on November 29.

Analysts forecast Mesa triumphing in the second round, propelled over the line by the “anyone but MAS” slogan popular amongst much of Bolivia’s middle class. The five other candidates, all lagging in the polls, are all expected to back Mesa. “While the margin will be close, we remain of the view that Mesa will take the race to a 29 November runoff, which he would be favoured to win,” Filipe Gruppelli Carvalho, Bolivia analyst at consulting firm Eurasia Group, told Agence France-Presse.

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Page last modified: 09-11-2020 15:45:36 ZULU