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Bolivia’s Morales declares himself election winner

Evo Morales said he had the votes needed to avoid a second round run-off against his rival, ex-president Carlos Mesa.

Protesters who are against the re-election of Evo Morales (Juan Karita/AP)
Protesters who are against the re-election of Evo Morales (Juan Karita/AP)

By Associated Press Reporter

Evo Morales has declared himself the winner of Bolivia’s presidential election.

Mr Morales said he received the 10 percentage point lead over his nearest rival that he needed to win in the first round of voting.

With more than 98% of the votes counted from Sunday’s election, he said he had the votes needed to avoid a second round run-off against his rival, ex-president Carlos Mesa.

In a press conference, Bolivia’s first indigenous president said: “We have won in the first round. With 1.5% (of the votes) left to count, we have won with the rural vote.”

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Evo Morales declared himself winner of the country’s presidential election (Juan Karita/AP)

Mr Mesa immediately announced that he would form an alliance to “defend the vote” and alleged that Mr Morales had perpetrated “a monumental fraud” to get re-elected for a fourth term.

The announcement by Mr Morales followed days of protests by both his opponents and supporters over accusations of vote fraud.

The nation had been on a knife-edge since the close and bitterly disputed vote. If it had gone to a second round run-off between Mr Morales and Mr Mesa, analysts said a united opposition might have stood a chance of defeating the incumbent president.

International vote monitors have expressed concern at an earlier unexplained day-long gap in reporting results before a sudden spurt in Morales’ vote percentage.

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Police fired tear gas at people who protested against the re-election of President Evo Morales (Juan Karita/AP)

Suspicions of electoral fraud rose when officials abruptly stopped releasing results from the quick count of votes hours after the polls closed on Sunday with Mr Morales topping the eight other candidates, but also falling short of the percentage needed to avoid the first run-off in his nearly 14 years in power.

Twenty-four hours later, officials suddenly released an updated figure, with 95% of votes counted, showing Mr Morales just 0.7 percentage points short of the 10-percentage point advantage needed to avoid a run-off.

That set off an uproar among the opposition and expressions of concern by international monitors.

The observer mission of the Organisation of American States asked for explanations and the European Union and the UN expressed concern about the electoral process and called for calm. The United States and Brazil, among others, also expressed concerns.

PA

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