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National elections loom after a brutal year for Bolivia

October 17, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

It started with allegations of fraud amid contested national elections. Then came claims of a coup. An incumbent president was exiled, protests paralyzed the country, and an economy that had been a Latin American success story showed serious signs of decline.

An incumbent president was exiled, protests paralyzed the country, and an economy that had been a Latin American success story showed serious signs of decline.

It was clear the contest would come down to two candidates: long-time incumbent President Evo Morales and former President Carlos Mesa.

Morales, the country's larger-than-life, first indigenous president, had been credited for a years-long effort to lower poverty and grow the economy, spearheading a campaign to nationalize certain industries that delivered positive results.

Mesa himself has never actually been elected president.

Preliminary results were released the evening of October 20, showing Morales with a slight lead over Mesa, but not enough to avoid a runoff election under Bolivian elections rules: Candidates need 50% of the vote, or at least 40% and a 10-point lead, to avoid a second round of voting.

An Organization of American States (OAS) election audit released a few weeks later claimed there was "intentional manipulation" and "serious irregularities" in the vote count.

Amid the post-election chaos and Morales' departure, right-wing opposition lawmaker Jeanine Añez declared herself interim president in November 2019, despite the absence of a legislative quorum to appoint her.

Shortly after taking office, the Añez administration was swiftly accused of brutally suppressing protesters and of racism against indigenous groups who overwhelmingly support the Movement for Socialism (MAS), the party once led by former President Evo Morales.

When Añez again postponed the national vote from September 6 to this weekend, thousands of protesters set up dozens of roadblocks, crippling cities like La Paz.

Once again, former president Carlos Mesa is facing off against a member of the MAS party: Luis Arce, Morales' former finance minister and handpicked successor.

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