Bolivia’s president calls new election after police abandon posts to join pro-democracy protesters in street

Damning report from monitors comes after military chiefs say they will not ‘confront the people’

Richard A. L. Williams
Sunday 10 November 2019 13:45 GMT
Bolivia police join protesters marching to demand free and fair elections

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Bolivia’s president Evo Morales has agreed to call new elections after a damning report from monitors found serious irregularities in last month’s vote, which was won by the leftist leader.

Police forces were seen joining huge protests sweeping the country in the wake of the Organisation of American States (OAS) report, while military chiefs said troops would not “confront the people” over the issue.

Issued earlier on Sunday, the report said the October vote should be annulled after it had found “clear manipulations” of the voting system that meant it could not verify the result.

Mr Morales, speaking at a press conference in La Paz, also said he would replace the country’s electoral body. The department has come under heavy criticism after an unexplained halt to the vote count sparked widespread allegations of fraud and prompted the OAS audit.

The president, who came to power in 2006 as Bolivia’s first indigenous leader, has defended his election win but had said he would adhere to the findings of the OAS audit.

“The manipulations to the computer systems are of such magnitude that they must be deeply investigated by the Bolivian state to get to the bottom of and assign responsibility in this serious case,” the preliminary OAS report said.

“The first round of the elections held on October 20 must be annulled and the electoral process must begin again,” the OAS added in a separate statement.

Voting should take place as soon as conditions are in place to guarantee it being able to go ahead, including a newly composed electoral body, the OAS said.

The OAS added that it was statistically “unlikely” that Mr Morales had secured the 10 percentage point margin of victory needed to win outright.

Bolivia’s President Evo Morales addresses the media
Bolivia’s President Evo Morales addresses the media (Reuters)

In an outright win that had allowed Mr Morales to avoid a riskier second round run-off, he was declared the winner of the election with a lead of just over 10 points over his rival Carlos Mesa.

The protests erupted afterward, particularly because of a nearly 24-hour halt during the vote count.

Additional reporting by agencies

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