Evo Morales’ MAS erased all suspicions of illegitimacy this Sunday in Bolivia when Luis Arce, the candidate backed by the exiled former Bolivian president who was ousted in a coup last year after a tightly-contested election, won by a 20-point-plus landslide in a new presidential vote whose results have already been accepted by the regime, the opposition and the Organization of American States (OAS).
Arce, the economic mastermind during all of Morales’ tenure, was a more centrist figure put at the top of the ticket to attract middle class voters, in combination with VP David Choquehuanca, a man closer to the party’s indigenous bases. The combination was a success, as the pair took more than 54 percent of the vote and won by more than 25 percentage points, a far more comfortable lead than the 10 point winning margin earned by Morales in the 2019 presidential election, in the buildup to his ousting.
Morales had ignored a referendum to make a new re-election legal thanks to a very contentious judicial ruling, and barely met the 10-point margin needed to avoid a runoff, leading to challenges from both the opposition and the OAS about the typically late-arriving votes from poor, rural, indigenous areas, that secured that the 10-point lead was reached. Eventually, the police and the military stopped backing Morales, and the leader had to flee to Mexico first and Argentina later, while conservative senator Jeanine Añez was sworn into power.
Arce’s victory is also a win for Argentina’s Alberto Fernández, who strongly backed Morales from day one, denouncing a coup and helping him find exile in Mexico first and Argentina later. Fernández was running out of left-of-centre allies in the region as the right regained Brazil, Uruguay, and other neighboring countries, and a moderate center-left man like Arce will be a boost for his leadership profile.