Bolivian voters appeared to have delivered a slim but stinging defeat to President Evo Morales after election officials announced he had lost a bid to run for a fourth straight term in office. As early results came in Morales appeared defiant and unwilling to accept what increasingly looked like his biggest electoral setback in 10 years. But the country’s electoral authorities announced on Tuesday night that voters in a referendum had ultimately rejected by a slim margin a constitutional amendment to let him run for a further term in 2019. After the announcement people poured into the streets to celebrate in the eastern city of Santa Cruz, where opposition to Morales is strong. Fireworks also sounded in La Paz, where there is weariness of corruption in the governing party.
The ballot measure in Sunday’s referendum had been voted down 51% to 49% with 99.5 percent of the ballots counted, officials said. The outcome also blocks the vice-president, Alvaro Garcia, from running again.
Speaking to journalists earlier on Monday, Morales had said he would accept the result either way and pinned his hopes on a late surge of support in rural areas. “They don’t like us much in the city,” he said.
The referendum had asked voters if the constitution should be changed to allow Morales – Bolivia’s first indigenous president – to run in the 2019 election and potentially remain in power until 2025.