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Evo Morales, a Bolivian, will win Sunday’s election

He did not run in the election, but former President Evo Morales is experiencing a long-awaited Bolivia national elections sunday.

The socialist fire brand and longtime rival of the United States remains in exile in neighboring Argentina after resigning under military pressure after a controversial vote a year ago, when he sought a controversial fourth term in office.

But his political party, in which former Economy Minister Morales is a presidential candidate, is running in the polls ahead of a new vote in the landlocked 1

1-million-strong Andean country.

Sunday’s competition brought together survey observers from around the world. Some call the election, which also includes competition for the national legislature, the most important in the country’s modern history.

“This is a huge moment for Bolivia because of what happened in last year’s election,” said John Walsh, an analyst at the Washington Bureau in Latin America. “Everyone sees this as a huge, even existential bet for the country. … And if people are incited to protest and violence because they think their elections are being stolen, it can become very ugly, very quickly. ”

Authorities are on high alert amid fears that a closed or controversial vote could cause new upheavals in the streets.

The economic recession – the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic and falling commodity prices – has prompted many Bolivians to seek a return to so-called “evonomics,” a mix of social security payments, community service projects and a generally practical approach to business. position of Morales. High commodity prices, especially natural gas, have contributed to the relative economic prosperity of the country, which has long been one of the poorest and most politically unstable countries in Latin America.

While his critics condemn him as a left-wing autocrat, for many Bolivians Morales is in place a stark contrast to the country’s difficult times.

“We were much better off with the Evo government, there was economic security, not like it is now,” said Rosa Machaka, 43, a fruit seller on the streets of the capital. “Now there are families who don’t have enough to eat.”

Sunday’s election is the official repeat of last year’s controversial election, which resulted in Morales resigning despite gaining the most votes in his fourth-term bid. The court decision allowed him to run, even though voters said in an all-Ukrainian referendum that he would not be able to run for a fourth term.

Bolivia’s high command has pushed him to step down after weeks of street protests over alleged election fraud. he objected. Morales called the result a coup backed by the United States, but Washington denied any involvement in his resignation.

The right-wing legislator, Jeanine Agnes, replaced Morales as interim president, which Morales declared illegal. While taking the oath of office, Agnes famously waved the Bible, which hindered the secular left leadership of Morales. The Trump administration applauded the departure of Morales, a fan of Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez, who, of humble origins, became union leader representing producers of coca leaves and cocaine raw materials in the country.

Subsequently, deputies released the results of last year’s vote and called new elections.

But Anes, the country’s unwavering economic elite, has never been able to gain electoral cravings outside its right-wing base. With the economy dwindling, it dropped out of the race last month.

Now the interim president – accused of illegal repression against the Morales camp – has adopted what is called the “anyone but the IAC” strategy, following the Spanish acronym for the Morales political bloc, the Movement for Socialism.

“We must responsibly vote for the most advantageous candidates, those who will win Evo Morales,” Agnes said this week.

Morales’ determination to run for re-election last year alienated even many fans, concerned about the possible aspirations of a lifelong president. But Morales maintains a strong support base, especially among the indigenous, poor and working class, who make up the majority of Bolivians.

The pleas of Agnes and other opponents of Morales do not contradict the call of the ex-president, who in 2005 became the first native of Bolivia to be elected president.

The current presidential candidate, according to opinion polls, is Luis Arce, 57, a former banker who served as Morales’ economy minister.

Closing his campaign this week , Arce took to the streets of El Alto, the working class and mostly indigenous suburb of the capital, the stronghold of Morales.

“We experienced a bloody coup, a terrible dream in which people were in pain, mourning and hunger,” Arce told the crowd. “Racism, discrimination and arrogance are back. … They thought they would kill MAS, but in Alto we say, “Here we are! Live! ‘“

Opponents see Arce as a puppet of Morales, who remains the leader of the IAU, the country’s largest single political force, even in exile.

Although polls in Bolivia may be volatile, a recent poll found that Arce has about a third of the president’s vote ahead of a field of five candidates. His closest candidate is former president Carlos Mesa, 67, of the center-right Civic Community party, with nearly a quarter of the vote, according to Ciesmori.

Bolivia’s electoral law stipulates that a presidential candidate must win a majority or at least 40% of the vote with a 10-point advantage over his or her nearest candidate to be declared the winner of the first round.

Mesa is counting on the support of many Bolivians, alienated by the chaos of last year’s vote, both on Sunday and during the second promising round of voting in November, in which IAU opponents are likely to unite.

The pandemic has forced several postponements of elections scheduled for Sunday.

“I just hope democracy wins this election,” said Johnny Antezana, 38, a businessman here. “We have experienced an institutional crisis. And, and I don’t think people can support more uncertainty. “

Since his exile to Argentina, where he has been granted political refugee status, Morales has expressed confidence in the decisive triumph of his political protégé Arce. He promised to return to Bolivia “the next day” after his ally’s alleged victory, despite arrest warrants against him for sedition and terrorism.

“I am sure, brothers and sisters, that you will not leave me,” Morales said in a message to his Bolivians last month. “We’re going to win again.”

Times McDonnell wrote from Mexico City and special correspondent Padilla from La Paz.

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