Violence broke out in several Bolivian cities Monday after the main opposition candidate rejected presidential election results that seemed set to give victory to long-time incumbent Evo Morales, as international monitors voiced “deep concern.”
Rival supporters clashed in the capital La Paz, while in the southern city of Sucre an angry mob set a local electoral authority’s headquarters on fire, TV images showed.
Carlos Mesa, who came a close second to Morales in Sunday’s polls -- forcing a run-off, according to preliminary results -- denounced revised results released by election authorities as a “fraud.”
“We are not going to recognize those results that are part of a shameful, consumated fraud, that is putting Bolivian society in a situation of unnecessary tension,” said Mesa.
Mesa, a former president of the country between 2001-2005, accused Morales of colluding with the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) to tweak delayed results and avoid a run-off.
The United States condemned the Electoral Tribunal’s “attempts to subvert Bolivia’s democracy by delaying the vote count and taking actions that undermine the credibility of Bolivia’s elections.”
“We call on the TSE to immediately act to restore credibility in the vote counting process,” the top US diplomat for Latin America, Michael Kozak, said on Twitter.
Election monitors from the Organization of American States expressed “deep concern” at sudden changes to the election count to show Morales closing in on an outright victory in the first round.
“The OAS mission expresses its deep concern and surprise at the drastic and hard-to-explain change in the trend of the preliminary results revealed after the closing of the polls,” it said in a statement.
Preliminary results released late Sunday showed neither Morales, 59, nor 66-year-old Mesa with a majority and “clearly indicated a second round,” the OAS mission said.
The partial results put Morales in the lead with 45 percent of the votes, with Mesa on 38 percent, meaning Morales would have to contest a run-off for the first time.
But results released late Monday, after a long delay, showed Morales edging towards an outright victory with 95 percent of the votes counted.
The OAS called on the election authority to “firmly defend the will of the Bolivian people” and called for calm on the streets, amid reports of clashes between both sets of supporters in La Paz.
“It is extremely important that calm is maintained and any form of violence is avoided in this delicate situation,” it added.