Bolivia: protests as Evo victory contested

Riot police have clashed with protesters in cities across Bolivia as the Superior Electoral Tribunal (TSE) announced a clear win for incumbent President Evo Morales 24 hours after the Oct. 20 elections, obviating the need for a second round with conservative challenger Carlos Mesa. The announced victory followed a sudden halt in the counting, before which Morales had been falling just short of the percentage needed to avoid the first run-off in his nearly 14 years in power. Crowds set fire to the TSE offices in Sucre and Potosi, and protesters torched ballots in Tarija. Street clashes erupted between Morales and Mesa supporters in La Paz and Santa Cruz. Mesa, of the Comunidad Ciudadana opposition bloc, is charging fraud, saying, "We are confident that the citizenry will not accept these completely distorted and rigged results." (AP, The Guardian, EFE, InfoBae, InfoBaeANF, BoliviaPrensa)

The Mesa candidacy has won paradoxical support from elements of the indigenous opposition in Bolivia, disaffected by what they call Morales' authoritarianism. Lawmaker Rafael Quispe, candidate for governor of La Paz department with the "Somos Pueblo Demócrata" alliance, announced after the election that in case of a run-off he would throw his support to Mesa. In the first round, his alliance had been backing Oscar Ortiz, a conservative Santa Cruz senator with the Social Democratic Movement (Demócratas), who came in third place. (Al JazeeraLos Tiempos, Cochabamba; Exito Noticias, La Paz)

Protests continue in Bolivia

Street battles broke out between supporters of President Evo Morales and opposition leader Carlos Mesa, leaving dozens wounded as protests against alleged electoral fraud in Bolivia entered a second week. Residents of the upscale Achumani neighborhood in La Paz ironically used the tactics seen in the past by Bolivia's popular classes, erecting street barricades and halting traffic. In the eastern city of Santa Cruz, clashes left some 30 wounded, including one from gunshot. A general strike paralyzed Santa Cruz and the mining city of Potosi in the southeast. In the Cochabamba, clashes broke out between opposition supporters setting up barricades and Morales loyalists trying to break them up.

La Paz Mayor, Luis Revilla, a Mesa ally, told reporters that pro-Morales "shock groups" were provoking confrontations around the country. Morales, in turn, claimed the opposition was preparing for a "coup d’etat." The Organization of American States (OAS), voicing "surprise" and "concern" over the ballot count, has agreed to conduct an audit of the results. The US and EU are both calling for a run-off election. (AFP)

Morales said he would cooperate with an audit, but also expressed his support for the National Coordination for Change (CONALCAM), which has threatened blockades to choke off cities that have staged strikes against his re-election. (Reuters)