La Paz, Oct 25 (AFP/APP): Bolivian President Evo Morales declared victory Thursday in elections whose disputed results have triggered riots, a general strike and opposition charges that he is trying to steal a fourth term in office.
Hours later, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) on its website declared Morales the winner with 99.8 percent of the ballots counted from Sunday’s vote.
Morales had 47.1 percent, the tribunal said, against 36.5 percent for his closest rival, the centrist Carlos Mesa.
Mesa needed to be within 10 points of Morales’ score to force a runoff.
The TSE has been heavily criticized for its conduct of the count process, including by its own vice-president, who resigned.
“We won in the first round,” Morales confidently told the earlier news conference. He called this “good news.”
But he said that if he did not obtain the 10-point margin he would respect that result. “If we have to go to a second round, we will go,” he said.
The new mandate means Morales, already Latin America’s longest serving president, will remain in power until 2025.
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 dramatically Monday to give the president a wider lead.
The European Union said Thursday it shared the OAS assessment “that the best option would be to hold a second round to restore trust and ensure the full respect of the democratic choice of the Bolivian people.”
“We call on all parties to refrain from violence and from making declarations that are divisive,” it said.