Bolivia’s Morales facing fight as he seeks fourth term

La Paz, Oct 21 (AFP/APP): Bolivians went to the polls Sunday with Evo Morales vying for a controversial fourth term as the country’s first indigenous president amid allegations of corruption and authoritarianism.

Former coca farmer and leftist union leader Morales has been in power since 2006, but his popularity is on the wane.

“We need change. I think any party, no matter how good it is, if it stays in place for too long, it is corrupt, that’s what we’re going through,” said 22-year-old student Tania Villaroel Lopez as she joined a line of voters outside a polling station near the presidential palace in central La Paz.

Roberto Fernandez, 32, came with his wife Denise and their two-year-old daughter to vote at the same place. They said they feared the result of the elections would be manipulated.

“We hope the end result will be respected,” Fernandez said.

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Latin America’s longest-serving president, Morales held a 32-27 percent lead in opinion polls over his main challenger, a 66-year-old journalist and former president Carlos Mesa.

Despite Morales’ previous three election victories, opinion polls say this race is likely to go to an unprecedented second-round runoff on December 15.

None of the other seven candidates is expected to come close to challenging the top two, but neither Morales nor Mesa is likely to win the first-round vote outright.

Bolivia’s seven million eligible voters were also casting ballots to choose members of the 166-seat congress — 36 senators and 130 deputies.

After casting his ballot in his coca-growing district of Chapare, Morales, a member of the Aymara indigenous community, said he was optimistic about his chances and confident in Bolivia’s democracy.

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