LA PAZ (Reuters) – Bolivia’s chief opposition leader on Sunday called for new elections to resolve the political crisis engulfing the nation since a disputed Oct. 20 vote that Bolivian authorities said was won by leftist President Evo Morales, sparking protests.
Former Bolivian president Carlos Mesa, the closest rival to Morales in official vote tallies, said, “The best solution to this crisis is a new election.”
The streets of the Andean nation were mostly quiet over the weekend, with some scattered road blockades and peaceful rallies. But the rhetoric of the government and opposition leadership got tougher on Sunday.
Mesa, 66, who ruled Bolivia from 2003 to 2005, said his supporters will remain in the streets in peaceful protests until a solution to the crisis is achieved. The opposition previously called on Morales to step down.
Supporters of Morales and Mesa clashed in protests in the aftermath of the election. Two people were killed in unrest on Wednesday, the first deaths in a tense standoff running for almost two weeks.
A Morales administration spokesman did not immediately comment on Mesa’s call for new elections.
Morales, 60, has been in power for nearly 14 years. He was declared the winner of the election by barely more than the 10 percentage point margin needed for outright victory, avoiding a runoff. The outcome was mired in controversy after the vote count was halted for a day when the election was seemingly headed for a run-off.
After the vote count was restarted by authorities amid an outcry from the opposition, foreign governments and election monitors, there was a sharp swing in the favour of Morales that gave him just enough votes to avoid a riskier second round.
(Reporting by Daniel Ramos and Vivian Sequera; writing by Hugh Bronstein; Editing by Will Dunham)