Bolivia opposition candidate contests election count as rival protesters & police clash in streets (VIDEOS)
Bolivian President Evo Morales is slated for victory in a highly contentious election after authorities issued a fresh vote tally, prompting claims of fraud from the opposition and chaotic protests across the country.
Following a 24-hour pause in the vote count by the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE), the agency updated its tally late on Monday – accounting for over 95 percent of the ballots – putting Morales just over the 10 percent lead needed to win and avoid a run-off election with rival Carlos Mesa. Morales is currently vying to serve an unprecedented fourth term as president under the Movement for Socialism Party.
The previous figure – issued before the pause on Sunday with some 84 percent of the votes counted – suggested Morales was unlikely to secure the needed margin for victory, sparking allegations of fraud from the Citizen Community Party leader Mesa and his supporters, some of whom took to the streets to protest ahead of the final count.
In videos posted online, opposition demonstrators could be seen setting fire to a TSE headquarters in Bolivia’s capital of Sucre, while similar angry crowds were spotted burning election materials in the southern city of Tarija.
Demonstrators also vandalized property elsewhere in the country.
Earlier on Monday, thousands of opposition voters gathered outside a TSE building in La Paz to protest; police responded with tear gas.
Slamming the updated result as “shameful,” Mesa told reporters he believed citizens would not accept the outcome, after earlier accusing the government of “manipulation.”
“This government has created an impossible situation,” Mesa said. “It’s mocking the popular vote.”
The Organization of American States (OAS), a regional institution based in Washington, DC, also issued a statement noting “deep concern” and “surprise” at the sudden shift in the vote tally, adding “We hope that the result of the final calculation will adhere to the will of the voters expressed at the polls.”
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