Bolivia Has a Socialist President—Again.
Exit polls show that Evo Morales’s successor, Luis Arce, is on track for a convincing first-round victory.
Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: Socialist candidate Luis Arce wins Bolivia’s presidential election according to exit polls, the European Union’s Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier is in London to continue Brexit trade talks, and the U.N. arms embargo on Iran is lifted.
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After Year of Upheaval, Bolivians Elect a Morales Ally
Bolivians went to the polls in their millions on Sunday to elect a new president while attempting to draw a line under a tumultuous 12 months, even by Bolivia’s own dramatic standards. According to initial results published early this morning, Luis Arce, the party successor to ousted president Evo Morales, appears to have won the election outright in the first round of voting.
Arce’s victory is a bitter vindication for Morales, who resigned as president under military pressure in 2019 and subsequently fled the country. Arce, Morales’s economics and public finance minister was shown in pre-election polling as the favorite. So great was his lead that Jeanine Áñez, Bolivia’s interim president, removed herself from contention in order to better consolidate opposition to Arce.
Suspicions and anxiety remain. Even with Arce’s strong lead in polls, early problems with a slow vote count led to anxiety over electoral fraud given the country’s experience in the previous election. After polls closed, Morales accused polling companies of hiding the “great triumph” of his party, Movement Towards Socialism (MAS), by not publishing exit polls quickly enough.
The conspiratorially-minded could also point to the Bolivian Supreme Electoral Court’s last-minute decision to refrain from reporting preliminary vote totals as ballots were counted. The court said it made the call in order to head off the kind of public unrest the delays in preliminary results caused in the 2019 election.
A decisive victory. Under the country’s electoral rules, a candidate must win either 50 percent of the vote outright, or win 40 percent while no other candidate comes within 10 percent in order to avoid a runoff. According to exit polling, Arce did both: he received 52.4 percent of the vote, almost 20 points ahead of his nearest challenger.
A peaceful transition? As James Bosworth wrote in Foreign Policy in November 2019, Bolivia has not had a peaceful transition of power since 2002, and the prospect of violence is never far away. “This history—and the current tumultuous state of Bolivian politics—suggests that the next elected president will likely face protests and be forced to resign as well. That’s a pessimistic yet entirely possible scenario in the coming years,” Bosworth writes.
In the early hours of Monday morning, as results were becoming clear, interim president Áñez congratulated Arce on his victory. The coming weeks will prove whether Bolivia’s opposition accepts the result.
The World This Week
On Monday, Oct. 19, The European parliament plenary session begins in Strasbourg.
On Tuesday, Oct. 20, the Organization of American States holds its General Assembly by virtual conference.
Also on Tuesday, German Chancellor Merkel meets with Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi.
On the same day, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo hosts the U.S.-UAE strategic dialogue.
On Wednesday, Oct. 21, the U.S. Federal Reserve Board releases its “Beige Book” report detailing anecdotal evidence of economic conditions in each Federal Reserve Bank district.
On Thursday, Oct. 22, the final debate between President Donald Trump and his Democratic party challenger former Vice President Joe Biden takes place in Nashville, Tennessee. It begins at 9 p.m. Eastern Time.
Also on Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to vote on the nomination of President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett. If approved, her nomination will then go to a full Senate vote.
On Saturday, Oct. 24, The Seychelles holds presidential and legislative elections. Danny Faure, who replaced President James Michel in 2016 is running for his first full five-year term.
Also on Saturday, the first round of voting begins in Egypt’s legislative elections. The final round will take place on December 7-8.
On Sunday, Oct. 25, Chileans vote on whether to replace their current constitution, which dates from the reign of Augusto Pinochet.
Also on Sunday, local elections take place across Ukraine. Voters will also be asked whether they support proposals including a sentence of life in prison in cases of major corruption, creating a free economic zone in the Donbass region, and legalizing medicinal cannabis use for critically ill patients.
What We’re Following Today
Barnier in London. The European Union’s Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier is in London today to continue talks over a trade deal with the United Kingdom. On Friday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he would opt for the “Australia solution” (The EU has no comprehensive trade deal with Australia and a range of tariffs) “unless there is a fundamental change of approach” from the EU side.
China bouncing back. On Monday morning, the Chinese National Bureau of Statistics released data showing third quarter GDP up 4.9 percent from a year ago. The promising economic figures mean that China’s overall GDP growth over the first three quarters of this year is now up 0.7 percent from the previous year. The news follows last week’s record high stock valuations on the Shanghai and Shenzhen markets, when overall values reached over $10 trillion.
A cease-fire false start in Nagorno-Karabakh. Officials from both sides of the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh accused the other of violating a new attempt at a cease-fire that took effect at midnight on Saturday. Armenian military officials reported overnight shelling and missile strikes by Azerbaijani forces on Sunday, while their Azerbaijani counterparts accused Armenian forces of firing mortars and artillery overnight and into Sunday morning. It is the second time in as many weeks that the Russian-brokered cease-fire has failed to hold.
Keep an Eye On
New Turkish Cypriot leader. A right-wing nationalist who had received the public support of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been elected as the new Turkish Cypriot leader in the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. Ersin Tatar beat incumbent Mustafa Akinci in a run-off election on Sunday, winning 51.74 percent of the vote. UN Secretary-General António Guterres is expected to convene a meeting with Greek and Turkish Cypriots, along with Turkey, Greece and the United Kingdom, to decide whether to restart peace talks on the island.
Palestinian official hospitalized. Saeb Erekat, the chief negotiator for the Palestinian Liberation Organization has been taken to a hospital in Tel Aviv following a coronavirus diagnosis earlier this month. Erekat is known for playing a key role in the signing of the Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestinians in the 1990s. He underwent a lung transplant in 2017.
Iran arms embargo expires. Iran is free to purchase weapons on the open market again without United Nations approval after a 13-year-long U.N. arms embargo expired on Sunday. Iran’s defense ministry said it would not seek out “unconventional arms, weapons of mass destruction and a buying spree of conventional arms” as a result of the ban being lifted because it didn’t fit their national strategy. The European Union and United Kingdom will operate a separate arms embargo on Iran, making China and Russia the most likely recipients of any future Iranian orders.
Odds and Ends
A giant geoglyph depicting a cat, dating from between 200 and 100 B.C., has been discovered in the sands of Nazca, Peru. The 40-yard-long feline was unearthed during construction work on a hill overlooking the Nazca Lines UNESCO world heritage site. The cat joins a menagerie of other animal designs, including a whale, a hummingbird, a monkey, a dog, and a parrot. “It’s quite striking that we’re still finding new figures, but we also know that there are more to be found,” said Johny Isla, Peru’s chief archaeologist for the site.
That’s it for today.
Colm Quinn is the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @colmfquinn