Celebrations are taking place among supporters of the man poised to become Bolivia’s first ever indigenous president. Leftwing coca leaf farmer Evo Morales looks certain to take office after what appears to be the nation’s biggest election victories.
“Brothers and sisters, we have won,” he told his supporters. Rivals of the 46-year-old have conceded defeat and early results suggest he has taken more than 50 percent of the vote. Morales has vowed to nationalise Bolivia’s natural gas industry and reverse a US-backed programme to eradicate the coca plant – the leaves are a key ingredient to make cocaine, but also used by Indians for traditional medicine. Rival candidate, the former conservative president Jorge Quiroga, conceded defeat by saying that a democratic choice had been made. Critics of Morales, who has vowed to be what he calls a nightmare for Washington, are worried that huge amounts of financial assistance from the US could be in jeopardy. Morales’ supporters, however, see him as the man who can turn around what they say has been centuries of discrimination under leaders of European descent. It is clear that tough challenges lie ahead for the new president; street protests over economic policies have toppled two presidents in the past three years.