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Morales Party Claims Victory in Bolivia's Presidential Vote

Morales Party Claims Victory in Bolivia's Presidential Vote”

Bolivian presidential candidate Luis Arce, the leftist heir to former leader Evo Morales, said his country had "recovered democracy" after an exit poll from TV station Unitel indicated he had won the election in the first round with 52.4 percent of the vote.

"It's not ideal but we understand that (the electoral body) has chosen the path to guaranteeing absolute security of the vote and above all the official count", said centrist former president Carlos Mesa, who has been running second in polls and is expected to face Arce in a run-off next month.

Following the results, de facto "president" Jeanine Añez, as well as Mesa and the Organization of American States (OAS) General Secretary Luis Almagro, all recognised Arce's victory. A runoff vote, if necessary, would be held November 28.

Private polling companies showed Arce winning by a similar margin.

"As we know that the vote count will take the next few days, we will announce in due time where we will receive the final results and when an official statement will be made", Mesa added.

The Trump administration had celebrated Morales' ouster as a watershed moment for democracy in Latin America, but on Monday a State Department spokesman said that the USA looks forward "to working with whomever the Bolivians elect".

An unofficial count on Monday put the left-wing party of former president Evo Morales on the brink of a return to power.

Morales, who handpicked Arce and has been closely advising the campaign, hailed victory for socialism at a press conference in neighboring Argentina, where he has lived since being ousted from power previous year.

Bolivians will also get to select representatives for the 136-member Legislative Assembly.

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In total, the unrest left 36 dead and 800 injured.

Morales thanked Fernandez and Mexican President Manuel Andres Lopez Obrador for their support. He is also expected to return Bolivia to regional leftist organisations such as ALBA and UNASUR, and withdraw from the rightwing Lima Group which backs Venezuela's self-declared "interim president" Juan Guaido.

"I felt that I was not alone", he said.

"Hopefully it will be calm because we don't want to go through what happened previous year".

Arce was credited as the architect of the country's economic miracle under Morales, who became the country's first indigenous president in 2006.

Landlocked Bolivia is one of the poorest countries in the region, despite being resource rich. Sunday's poll was a repeat of the 2019 election, which led to Morales fleeing the country. Whilst Jeanine Áñez Chavez has acknowledged the legitimacy of MAS victory, if the official count is accurate, Arturo Murillo, the interim Interior Minister, has warned against the return of Morales. He is still being investigated for "rape and trafficking" over allegations he had relationships with underage girls, and even fathered a child with one.

Morales dismissed the accusations on Monday, saying they were "part of a dirty war" being waged against him.

The election is likely to set Bolivia's political course beyond Morales, the socialist indigenous leader whose shadow still looms large over the country, despite him living in exile in Argentina since the fraught vote previous year.

Her government has been accused of intimidation of MAS party supporters and Morales' associates. "We have returned millions, now we are going to restore dignity and freedom to the people", he said. The election comes as it undergoes its worst economic crisis in 40 years, with GDP expected to contract by 6.2% in 2020.



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