Morales re-elected in landslide victory

Morales re-elected in landslide victory

President Evo Morales easily won re-election, according to unofficial results, getting an overwhelming mandate for further revolutionary change on behalf of Bolivia’s long-suppressed indigenous majority.

Mr Morales’ allies also won a convincing majority in both houses of Congress.

Opponents said they fear the coca-growers’ union leader union will use his consolidated power not just to continue reversing racially based inequalities but also to trample human rights and deepen state influence over the economy.

Unofficial counts of 98% of the vote by two polling firms said Bolivia’s first indigenous president won with 63% of the votes – 36 points ahead of his closest challenger in a field of nine candidates.

Jubilant supporters waving Bolivian flags jumped up and down in La Paz’s central Murillo square after polls closed, chanting “Evo! Evo!”

Manfred Reyes, a centre-right former state governor and military officer, conceded soon after. He won 27% of the vote, according to the unofficial counts.

In a booming victory speech punctuated by fireworks from the balcony of the presidential palace, Mr Morales called on all sectors of society – including the opposition – to unite behind him.

“We have the enormous responsibility to deepen and accelerate this process of change,” he said, insisting final results will give him two-thirds of both chambers of Congress.

The lopsided results signaled an opposition in disarray.

Mr Reyes narrowly led in the opposition bastion of Santa Cruz state in the eastern lowlands with 50%, compared to 43% for Mr Morales.

The three political parties that dominated Bolivian politics for decades have now been all but erased. The last survivor was the National Union.

Its presidential candidate, Samuel Doria Medina, a centrist cement magnate, got just 6% of the vote, according to the quick counts.

Voters also chose a new Congress, and the quick count said Mr Morales’ stridently leftist Movement Toward Socialism easily won a majority in both the 36-seat Senate and 130-member lower house.

The movement appeared to secure two-thirds in the Senate but fall just short in the lower house.

It would need two-thirds control of both chambers to dictate terms of a law on indigenous territorial self-rule, make key appointments unchallenged and amend the constitution to allow Mr Morales to seek a third straight term – the 50-year-old incumbent has been evasive on the latter issue.

Still, with majorities in both houses, Mr Morales will have the power to expand on radical changes he already has made, such as indigenous autonomy and land reform.

Nearly six of 10 Bolivians live in poverty and Mr Morales gained immense support using increased profits from Bolivia’s natural gas industry to fund highly popular subsidies for schoolchildren and the elderly as well as one-time payments for new mothers.

“We’ll always back Evo Morales’ government because he takes into account the poor,” said Ramiro Cano, a 40-year-old jeweller and a member of Bolivia’s dominant Aymara ethnic group who voted for re-election.

Mr Cano praised Mr Morales especially for the annual subsidy his two children receive for attending school. “He’s been a great help not just for me but for all families in need.”

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