MAS Picks Up Governor’s Seat amid Bolivia Election-Fraud Claims

EspañolCivil-society groups and opposition politicians have once again spoken out against a controversial decision by Bolivia’s judiciary.

On the morning of Monday, April 13, the Departmental Electoral Tribunal (TED) of Chuquisaca declared victory for the candidate of the ruling Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) in elections for the department’s governor.

However, Esteban Urquizu’s win was decided only after the TED ruled that all votes cast in favor of an opposition candidate were invalid. The tribunal ruled that votes for the Revolutionary Left Front (FRI) — more than 9,000 at 3.81 percent — did not count, as its candidate had resigned shortly before the elections and hadn’t been replaced.

With the TED’s decision, the share of the vote won by the government candidate rose from 48.91 percent to 50.88 percent. The move helps him avoid a second electoral round against Chuquisaca Somos Todos (CST) candidate Damián Condori, who received 42.49 percent of the vote.

The FRI’s spokesman in the city of Tarija, Roberto Márquez, argued that the TED’s resolutions, provisional or otherwise, are against the law, and demanded both the annulment of the electoral process in Chuquisaca and for legal action to be taken against those who signed Monday’s document.

The FRI wouldn’t allow “seven officials to decide the future” of the Bolivian department, he added.

While the elections took place on March 29, voting was repeated in three areas that had objected against alleged fraud on Sunday, April 12.

Bolivian opposition party leaders called their members of a meeting on April 15 to decide upon their next steps.
Bolivian opposition party leaders called their members to a meeting on April 15 to decide on their next step. (@diarioeldeber)

Hilda Saavedra, an elected assembly member for CST, signaled that they would appeal the TED’s decision.

“Tomorrow [Wednesday 15] they’re convening a council in the city of Sucre, in which they want to issue decisions; the people will decide over the actions to be taken,” CST leader Norberto Velásquez told press.

The open council is a channel of communication between the authorities and citizens used in Bolivia as a venue for protest and dialogue over local issues.

Condori meanwhile traveled to La Paz to seek to annul the tribunal’s ruling and press ahead with a second round.

Despite Monday’s announcement, TED’s spokesman in Chuquisaca Zenaida Navarro denied that any final decision had been made. “We have a time frame of five days from Monday to do so, and we’re working on that process,” the electoral official stated.

Ramiro Tinuco, another TED representative, explained that the body couldn’t make a ruling on appeals by the CST or FRI — which also announced its objection to the decision — without referring the case to the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE).

Former Congresswoman Rebeca Delgado also added her voice to those calling for the TED officials involved to be removed. “The healthiest thing for the country is that both those in the Supreme Tribunal and those in the departmental tribunals resign,” Delgado said.

Worrying Precedents

Electoral wrangles after nationwide polls in March weren’t confined to a single department. On March 21, the TSE decided to cancel the legal status of the opposition party Democratic Unity (UD) in Beni department.

As a result, 228 candidates from the political movement were disqualified from taking part, including favorite for the governorship Ernesto Suárez.

In 1989’s presidential elections, four members of what was then the National Electoral Court — now known as the “gang of four” — were accused of disregarding thousands of votes and manipulating ballot counts in order to hand the presidency to Jaime Paz Zamora, who had initially finished in third place.

Translated by Laurie Blair. Edited by Guillermo Jimenez.

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