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Bolivian presidential primaries begin with inclusion of President Morales

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Bolivian presidential primaries begin with inclusion of President Morales

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Photo: Reuters

Bolivia holds the first round of presidential primaries today, October’s general election. President Evo Morales will contest the primary, following court approval last year to seek a fourth term.

Morales has been in power for over 13 years, first elected in 2005, with re-elections in 2009 and 2014. The court decision comes despite a constitutional ban and a referendum result against such a move. He is widely credited by the World Bank and IMF with strengthening the country’s economy to annual growth of over 5% per annum and halving extreme poverty.

However, his efforts to win an unprecedented fourth term in office have overshadowed these accomplishments. A growing majority view the court decision as a considerable violation of popular will, which has raised questions about the stability of Bolivia’s separation of powers.

Centre-right Ex-President Carlos Mesa is expected to be the opposition front-runner against Morales, with early polling showing them tied at 27% in the first round of voting. Second-round polling shows Mesa beating Morales, primarily based on the 52% of the country that voted against Morales’ proposed constitutional reforms. Mesa’s biggest difficulty in the primary and general election is attracting left-leaning Morales opponents who form a sizable portion of the electorate. Morales is expected to retain significant popular support as the incumbent president, but the ability of the opposition to rally around Mesa shouldn’t be underestimated.

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