Bolivian voters have handed Evo Morales his first electoral defeat as president, rejecting by a slim margin a constitutional amendment that would have let him run for a fourth consecutive term in 2019.
After the announcement by electoral officials Tuesday night, celebrants poured into the streets in the eastern city of Santa Cruz, where opposition to Morales is strong. But fireworks also sounded in La Paz, where there is weariness of corruption in the governing party. The ballot measure in Sunday’s referendum was voted down 51 percent to 49 percent, with 99.5 percent of the ballots counted, a margin of just over 150,000 votes. The outcome also blocks Vice President Alvaro Garcia from running again.
Morales is Bolivia’s first indigenous president and he helped lift millions out of poverty since first taking office a decade ago by more equitably distributing natural gas revenues, spurring the creation of an indigenous middle class. But Bolivians have been losing patience with his now-entrenched Movement Toward Socialism.
The vote also closely followed a revelation that Morales may have been personally involved in influence-peddling.
“Evo’s traditional opposition among the affluent and middle class was joined by a wide swath of voters who have long been a part of his political support,” said Jim Shultz, executive director of the left-leaning Democracy Center political advocacy group. …