Credit: Rainer Hachfeld
Initial results in Bolivia indicate an early victory for MAS party candidate Luis Arce, former Minister of Economy and Public Finance in the government of ex-President Evo Morales. Candidates need to obtain at least 50 percent of the total votes, or 40 percent with a 10-point lead in the first round in order to avoid a run-off election. By all accounts, Arce will not only win 50 percent of the total votes, but at present, also holds a 20-point lead over the runner-up, Carlos Mesa, who conceded earlier this week.
The MAS victory is a testament to the persistence of voter support for the party in the aftermath of Evo Morales’ presidency and the controversies that followed. Some speculate that the MAS campaign benefited from its emphasis on economic stability and the fear it drummed up about a possible shift toward more neoliberal economic policies. Additionally, the elections confirmed disenchantment with Jeanine Añez’s interim government, as her brief stint as interim president was marked by accusations of corruption, nepotism, and a desire by some in her government to exact revenge on political opponents.
Arce’s victory might clear the way for Morales to return from his exile in Argentina. Arce, for his part, told Reuters on Tuesday that there will be “no role” in his government for Morales, but noted that the former president “can return to the country whenever he wants, because he’s Bolivian.” Morales’ future is not only dependent on Arce, but also the results of Morales’ pending court cases. The former president has been charged with a raft of corruption allegations, which he has denied.
With the return of MAS to power, the country is waiting to see how this the new administration might engage opposition coalitions and put Bolivia on a path to economic and political stability. Although Arce’s victory exemplifies a comeback for the left, his ability to bring about reconciliation, strengthen the rule of law, and pursue economic recovery will provide early indications of how he intends to forge his own political identity.