Bolivia's Morales claims victory in disputed election

AFP , Thursday 24 Oct 2019

Bolivia's President Evo Morales smiles during a press conference in La Paz, Bolivia, Thursday, Oct. 24, 2019. (Photo: AP)

Bolivian President Evo Morales declared victory Thursday in elections whose disputed results have triggered violent unrest, a general strike and opposition charges that he is trying to steal the election to secure a fourth straight term.

Morales said that after Sunday's voting, with 98 percent of the ballots counted, he has 46.83 percent, against 36.7 percent for his closest rival, the centrist Carlos Mesa.

A margin of at least 10 points would mean outright victory and no runoff.

"We won in the first round," Morales told a news conference. He called this "good news."

There was no immediate confirmation of this from the Supreme Electoral Tribunal.

After Morales' comments, the panel's website still had older figures that showed Mesa with a larger share of the votes and Morales about a point short of what is required to avoid a runoff.

Mesa said Wednesday he would not recognize results tallied by the tribunal, which he accused of manipulating the count to help the leftist Morales win.

Mesa is insisting there be a runoff between him and the president, and called on supporters to keep protesting in the streets of this resource-rich but poor South American country.

Observers from the Organization of American States have expressed concern over the vote count, which first showed Morales and Mesa in a tight race and headed for a runoff, and then shifted Monday to give the president a wider lead.

The European Union, Brazil, Argentina and the US also expressed concern over how the votes were tallied.

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