An election in Bolivia

After accusations of fraud and mass street protests, which culminated in military involvement, Evo Morales, Bolivia’s leader since 2005, resigned and fled to Mexico. That was October 2019. A caretaker government took power, and on Sunday the long-delayed election was re-held. Results are still coming in but it looks as if Evo Morales’ chosen successor has won by a 20-point margin.

In a country where almost half the population is indigenous, Evo Morales was Bolivia’s first indigenous president. He nationalised the resource extraction industries, fought inequality, and spent big on social policies. It worked, in part thanks to a massive commodity boom. GDP tripled, the poverty rate fall from 60% to 35% over his term and a country long been dominated by a European descended elite gave the indigenous flag equal status in 2009.

The Wiphala – Bolivia’s indigenous flag

He also introduced a referendum to eliminate Presidential term limits (it failed). He got them eliminated anyway thanks to a favorable decision from the highest court. In the 2019 election, it is alleged he tampered with the vote to push himself over the 20 point lead required to avoid a run-off (it is worth noting that no one denies he was double digits ahead of his opponent). His supporters counter that his removal by the military and reactionary opponents was a coup.

What is clear is that a majority of Bolivians want his project to continue, even if he will no longer be part of it.

The whole story is polarising and news coverage tends to reflect the ideology of the source. For a more critical take, which clearly hoped his successor would lose the election, check out this piece in the NYT. This piece by Jacobin: Evo Morales Was the Americas’ Greatest President speaks for itself.