Tensions rose in Bolivia on Sunday night after a closely fought referendum on whether to allow left-wing Bolivian president Evo Morales to stand for a fourth term went down to the wire. Following the national vote, surveys suggested Morales may have suffered his biggest election setback in 10 years, but as of midnight the final count was still too narrow to call. Exit polls by Mori indicated the proposal to revise the constitution was defeated by 51% to 49% while an Ipsos poll had a slightly wider gap of 52.3% to 47.7%. With the difference close to the margin of error, neither side was willing to concede defeat, but unease rose along with the uncertainty.
As “No” supporters set off fireworks in middle-class enclaves in southern La Paz on Sunday night, Alvaro Garcia Linera, Bolivia’s vice president, warned in an impromptu press conference that the opposition’s celebrations were premature and the government would wait for the official results to be announced by the country’s top electoral body, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal. He said the right had waged a “dirty war” in its campaign against the reforms.
Opposition leader and former president, Jorge “Tuto” Quiroga, responded with a warning that the government may commit fraud by pressuring the electoral body. He called on Organisation of America States election monitors not to leave the country until the final count had been announced.
Regionally, the tight election highlights the challenging political winds faced by populist leftist leaders who surged to power in Latin America the late 1990s and early 2000s.