Things That Matter

Evo Morales’s Protégé Luis Arce Wins Bolivian Presidency in Landslide Victory: ‘The Will of the People Has Been Asserted’

Photo by Gaston Brito/Getty Images

A new president–Luis Arce–has been elected in Bolivia. According to reports, Arce who has been hand-selected by exiled former socialist president Evo Morales to be his successor. Morales took to Twitter to celebrate the victory, which has all but rectified him: “Brothers and sisters: the will of the people has been asserted…We are going to give dignity and liberty back to the people,” he tweeted.

Throughout Bolivia’s most recent election cycle, Arce had been the frontrunner, with a pragmatic centrist candidate named Carlos Mesa trailing far behind him. Mesa conceded before all the votes were even counted, saying: “It is up to us, those of us who believe in democracy, to recognize that there has been a winner in this election.”

The peaceful nature of the election was, indeed, a surprise to many. The world seemed to be expecting mass protests or violence depending on the election’s results. NPR reported that Bolivians were stocking up on food and water in anticipation of greater civil unrest. But the election ran smoothly, and the results are considered a win for socialism, but a greater win for democracy and the peaceful transition of power.

The election results are significant because they prove that Bolivians are committed to, and do, indeed, support Morales’s Movimiento al Socialismo party.

Bolivia is an Indigenous-majority country and Morales had been the first and only Indigenous president. He had been president since 2004 before he was ousted in 2019.

Originally a powerful union organizer, Morales was very popular with the indigenous community, but nonetheless, a controversial figure throughout his presidency. He was beloved by many Bolivians for leading the country to economic prosperity through implementing socialist programs like universal education and paved roads. He also nationalized the oil and gas industry.

Although Morales declared victory in the October election, he soon resigned under threat of arrest due to claims of election fraud. He called his ouster a right-wing “coup” and has since been in exile in Argentina.

Morales claimed that the “coup” was due to powerful Western influences (like the United States and Canada) being sick of his anti-capitalist policies.

His critics claimed that he was cheating voters out of a fair election and had been in power far too long. These claims were backed by a report by the Organization of American States that claimed that the election results were marred by “irregularities” that made it impossible to guarantee the integrity of the data and certify the accuracy of the results.” The report has since been condemned as inaccurate.

After Morales’s ouster in 2019 and subsequent exile to Argentina, Bolivia has largely been in a state of political unrest. Jeanine Áñez, a right-wing politician who was a vocal critic of Morales, took over as interim president until a new election could be held. Áñez’s administration was plagued with reports of corruption and human rights violations. She was accused of using her political power to violently suppress and silence socialist protestors.

As for now, Bolivians largely seem to be happy with the outcome of the election. But with COVID-19 crippling their communities and economy, they have a long road to recovery ahead of them.

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com