Bolivia’s Evo Morales likely forced to presidential runoff

LA PAZ, Bolivia (AP) — President Evo Morales came out ahead in the first round of Bolivia’s presidential election, but he appears to have failed to get enough votes to avoid the first runoff in his nearly 14 years in power.

The preliminary results released late on Sunday dealt a harsh blow to South America’s longest serving leader in what has become the tightest political race of his life. But Morales, who is seeking a fourth term, still declared victory and told supporters at the presidential palace that “the people again imposed their will.”

The Andean country’s top electoral authority said that with 83 per cent of the vote counted from Sunday’s election, Morales was in first with 45.3 per cent, followed by former President Carlos Mesa with 38.2 per cent for second place in the field of nine candidates.

A special electoral mission from the Organization of American States said it was closely monitoring the election and requested information from the Supreme Electoral Tribunal after the transmission of preliminary results was halted.

If the results hold, Morales and Mesa will face off in a December ballot in which Morales could be vulnerable to a united opposition. “We’re in a runoff,” Mesa told supporters shortly after the first results were announced. He said his coalition had scored “an unquestionable triumph,” and called on others parties to join him for a “definitive triumph” in the second round.

Bolivia’s President Evo Morales poses for a picture before casting his vote in Villa in the Chapare region, Bolivia. PHOTO: AP