Bolivia’s presidential elections entered a turbulent phase on Sunday evening, as the Supreme Electoral Court’s (Tribunal Supremo Electoral, TSE) decision to interrupt publication of its electronic quick count results sparked protests. The TSE resumed its quick count on Monday afternoon. But even as the official ballot counting continues, the pause has generated legitimate questions about the credibility of the process. The contest between the incumbent Evo Morales and his main challenger, Carlos Mesa, is close, with the possibility of going to a second round of voting.
The heightened tensions come as President Morales seeks a fourth term in office, despite narrowly losing a 2016 referendum to amend the constitution to allow for indefinite re-election. Morales’ determination to seek another term has disaffected many Bolivians and underscores the importance of a transparent process in full adherence to the constitution.
It is essential that the Morales government and Bolivia’s electoral authorities fully and transparently respect constitutional procedures to ensure that the Bolivian people are able to exercise their fundamental right to freely and fairly choose their own leaders.
The government must also ensure that Bolivians are able to exercise their right to protest peacefully. All of the country’s political leaders should urge calm and exhort their supporters to refrain from violence.
Finally, in light of the questions that have already arisen, it is crucial that the international community—including the Organization of American States and the European Union observation missions already present in Bolivia—facilitate the most transparent and credible electoral results possible.