Bolivia delays elections amid MAS poll surge

BOLIVIA has delayed its elections once again – just weeks after polls showed Evo Morales’ MAS party comfortably leading in the polls.

The Supreme Electoral Tribunal postponed polling day for a third time, moving the election date from September 6 to October 18 this year.

Salvador Romero, who heads up the tribunal, claimed international experts had advised them to delay polls due to the coronavirus pandemic possibly peaking in late summer.

Bolivia has more than 64,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and more than 2,300 deaths, and Romero claimed infections would peak between July and September.

“This election requires the highest possible health security measures to protect the health of Bolivians,” he said.

While the delay was swiftly accepted by interim President Jeanine Áñez, who led the coup against Mr Morales last November, the former socialist leader said the postponement “will only harm the people”.

He was backed by a unionized federation of coca farming groups in Chapare – a MAS stronghold – who threatened worker mobilisation if the decision was not retracted.

Expert Daniel Hellinger told Redaction Politics: “Elections in Bolivia would only marginally increase the vulnerability of most Bolivians.

“The indigenous majority is already at high risk because of inequalities born of centuries of colonial oppression.

“Conversely, the privileged, largely shite minority can afford to shelter in place and are at lower risk of contracting the virus.

“The would have to expose themselves both to biological risk and political defeat were elections forward.”

Redaction Politics reported earlier this month on a poll from the Latin American Strategic Center for Geopolitics which showed Luis Arce, who served in Morales’ cabinet, 15 points ahead of Carlos Mesa and 28 points up on Jeanine Áñez.

At the time, writer Séamus Malekafzali told us: “The right-wing in Bolivia since the coup d’etat has been not only hopelessly fractured by its own petty feuds, but has continued to lose what claim to popularity it might have had when Evo Morales was forced to resign.

“Áñez knows that this is an incredibly difficult problem for her and her allies, which is why she had done almost everything in her power before this to delay or otherwise prevent the new election from happening before the pressure from supporters of the MAS became too much to ignore.”

It echoes Morales’ analysis, who said that the incumbent government, who have not yet faced Bolivia’s electorate, were simply buying more time.

Ms Áñez was very reluctant to confirm a September polling day, making this decision all the more suspicious.

Morales, who will influence the MAS campaign from his new home in Argentina, has continued to critique the government to millions of Twitter followers.

Featured Image: Marc Davis @Flickr

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