2019 Bolivian general election

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2019 Bolivian general election

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Turnout88.31% (Increase 0.41pp)
  Evo Morales 2017.jpg Carlos Mesa, ex-President of Bolivia (croppeda).jpg Chi Hyun Ching (cropped).png
Nominee Evo Morales Carlos Mesa Chi Hyun Chung
Party MAS-IPSP Civic Community PDC
Running mate Álvaro García Linera Gustavo Pedraza
Popular vote 2,889,359 2,240,920 539,081
Percentage 47.08% 36.51% 8.78%

President before election

Evo Morales

Elected President

(Election results annulled)
Jeanine Añez
Democrat Social Movement
(Unelected; assumed office by constitutional succession)

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General elections were held in Bolivia on 20 October 2019.[1] Voters elected all 130 members of the Chamber of Deputies and 36 senators and cast ballots for a joint slate of president and vice president.

Disputes over the transparency and legitimacy of the elections prompted weeks of widespread protests in Bolivia after incumbent President Evo Morales was declared the winner with 47.08% of the vote; because this was greater than ten-point margin over his nearest competitor, Carlos Mesa, this was enough for Morales to be announced as a winner without a run-off second-round vote.[2][3]

The Organization of American States conducted an audit that found "clear manipulation" in the election and significant irregularities overseen by the Electoral Commission,[4] including widespread data manipulation and altered and forged records.[2] The OAS audit team recommend new elections and appointment of a new elections commission.[2] However, this was contradicted by a separate report by the Center for Economic and Policy Research.[5]

Following protests, as well as calls for a second-round election from several foreign countries,[3] Morales, who had pledged to respect the OAS audit, agreed on 10 November to hold new elections,[4] at a date to be determined.[2] On the same day, Morales and his vice president, Álvaro García Linera, resigned from office after losing support from the police and military.[6] Furthermore, the President of the Senate and the President of the Chamber of Deputies – both party allies of Morales, also resigned on the same day, thus exhausting the constitutional line of succession. As a result, the second vice president of the Senate, Jeanine Añez of the opposition Democrat Social Movement, assumed the presidency of Bolivia on November 12, 2019.[7]


Article 168 of the 2009 constitution allows the President and Vice-President to put themselves forward for re-election only once, limiting the number of terms to two. The governing party, the Movement Towards Socialism–Political Instrument for the Sovereignty of the Peoples (MAS–IPSP) sponsored an effort to amend this article. The referendum was authorized by a joint session of the Plurinational Legislative Assembly on 26 September 2015, by a vote of 112 to 41.[8][9] Law 757, which convened the February referendum, passed by 113 votes to 43 and was promulgated on 5 November 2015.[10]

The referendum was held on 21 February 2016 and the proposed amendment was narrowly rejected by 51.3% to 48.7%. A successful 'yes' vote would have allowed President Evo Morales and Vice President Álvaro García Linera to run for another term in office in 2019. Morales had already been elected three times. The first time, in 2006, is not counted as it was before the two term limit was introduced by the 2009 constitution.[10]

Despite the referendum result, the Supreme Tribunal of Justice – referring to Art. 23 of the American Convention on Human Rights – ruled a little over one year later in December 2017 that all public offices would have no term limits despite what was established in the constitution, thus allowing Morales to run for a fourth term.[11]

Electoral system[edit]

The President of Bolivia is elected using a modified two-round system; a candidate wins outright if they receive more than 50% of the vote, or between 40% and 50% of the vote and are at least 10 percentage points ahead of their closest rival.[12] If neither condition is met, a run-off election is held between the two top candidates.[13]

Primary elections[edit]

Primary elections were held on 27 January 2019.[14][15][1] María Eugenia Choque, President of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE), stated that international observers had worked with the TSE to monitor the primary election results.[14] She also stated that they had been given an "information seminar" about all the logistic, legal and communications issues related to the primary and had even visited polling stations to make assessments and recommendations.[14] By the time the primary was held, however, only one candidate had been registered for each of the nine parties or alliances participating in the general elections.[15] Morales received 36.54% of the total primary votes.[16] Revolutionary Nationalist Movement candidate Virginio Lema was his closest challenger, receiving 7.10% of the total primary votes.[16]

Presidential candidates[edit]

On 27 January 2019, the TSE announced that nine candidates would contest the presidential elections.[16][17][18]

Party Presidential candidate Vice Presidential candidate
Movement for Socialism (MAS) Evo Morales Álvaro García Linera
Civic Community Carlos Mesa Gustavo Pedraza
Democrat Social Movement Óscar Ortiz Antelo Rubén Costas
Solidarity Civic Unity Víctor Hugo Cárdenas Humberto Peinado
Christian Democratic Party Chi Hyun Chung Paola Barriga
Revolutionary Nationalist Movement Virginio Lema Fernando Untoja Choque
The Front For Victory Israel Rodríguez Justino Román
National Action Party of Bolivia Ruth Nina Leopoldo Chui
Third System Movement Felix Patzi Lucila Mendieta

Opinion polls[edit]

  First place   Second place


Polling firm Date Morales Mesa García Linera Costas Doria Medina Quiroga Revilla Patzi Blank
Mercados y Muestras[19] January 31% 16% N/A 9% 10% 4% 2% 4% 14%
Mercados y Muestras[19] March 26% 20% N/A 8% 12% 4% 2% 3% 12%
Mercados y Muestras[19] May 29% 21% N/A 5% 7% 2% 2% 4% 13%
Captura Consulting[20] September/October 37% 20% N/A 10% 5% 3% N/A N/A N/A
N/A 24% 17% 13% 7% N/A 4% N/A N/A


Polling firm Date Morales Mesa Ortiz García Linera Doria Medina Albarracín Revilla Quiroga Patzi Others Blank NS/NC
Mercados y Muestras[21] January 2018 22% N/A 15% 13% N/A N/A 5% 4% N/A N/A 10%
Mercados y Muestras[22] March/April 2018 24% N/A 14% 8% 10% N/A N/A 3% N/A N/A N/A
Captura Consulting[23] March 2018 27% 18% 9% 4% N/A 4% 2% 3% N/A N/A N/A
Captura Consulting[24] May 2018 27% 23% 11% 7% N/A N/A 2% N/A N/A N/A N/A
Mercados y Muestras[25] July 2018 27% 25% 8% 7% N/A 3% 2% 2% N/A N/A 6%
IPSOS[26] August 2018 29% 27% 7% 9% N/A 3% N/A N/A 8% N/A 5%
IPSOS[27] October 2018 39% 25% 6% 4% N/A N/A 3% N/A 7% N/A 16%
Mercados y Muestras[28] November 2018 29% 34% N/A 10% N/A N/A N/A N/A 7% 20% N/A
Mercados y Muestras[29] December 2018 30% 39% 4% 2% N/A 2% 0% 0% 0% 20% N/A


Polling firm Date Morales Mesa Ortiz García Linera Doria Medina Albarracín Revilla Quiroga Patzi Others Blank NS/NC
Mercados y Muestras[29] January 2019 32% 32% 4% 3% 4% 2% 0% 0% 0% 25% N/A
Mercados y Muestras[30] February 2019 31% 30% 6.6% N/A N/A 6.6% N/A N/A N/A N/A 16.7%
Tal Cual[31] March 2019 35.6% 30.3% 7.3% N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A 16.7%
Estudios y Tendencias[32] April 2019 26.4% 21.1% 5.7% N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A 16.7%
Tal Cual[33] May 2019 38.1% 27.1% 8.7% N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A 1.3% N/A N/A 16.2%
Ciesmori[34] July 2019 37% 26% 9% N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A 12 7%
Captura Consulting[35][36] July 2019 38.4% 23.6% 11.9% N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A 1.9% N/A N/A 18.9%
Mercados y Muestras[37] August 2019 35% 27% 11% N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A 2% N/A 13% 10%
Tal Cual[38][39] August 2019 40.8% 23.3% 10.8% N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A 1.8% N/A N/A 14.6%
CELAG[40][39] August 2019 43.4% 25.1% 12.8% N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A 3.1% N/A 7.8% 5.0%
Mercados y Muestras (Nacional)[41][42] September 2019 34.4% 27.1% 13% N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A 1% N/A 2% 5.0%
CELAG[43] October 2019 38.8% 25.4% 11.3% N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A 3.2% 5.2% 10.4% 5.7%


Two independent vote count processes were used for the elections. The first one, Transmisión de Resultados Electorales Preliminares (TREP), is a quick count process based on photographs that is meant to provide a preliminary result on election day. The second process is the traditional physical count that takes more time to complete.[44]

With a preliminary vote count of 45% for incumbent president Evo Morales and 38% for his leading challenger, former president Carlos Mesa, after 83% of votes were counted, neither of the conditions for a first-round win appeared likely to be met. A second-round runoff vote between those two candidates would therefore be held on 15 December.[45] However, no further updates to the preliminary results were made after 19:40 hours local time on election day, which caused consternation among opposition politicians and election monitors deployed by the Organization of American States (OAS); Mesa described the suspension as "extremely serious" and spoke of manipulation, while the OAS said an explanation was essential. The electoral authorities explained that updates to the preliminary count had been halted because the official results were beginning to be released.[46]

On 24 October 2019, Morales officially declared outright victory following a counting process which gave him 46.83% of the vote against Mesa's 36.7%, with only few votes remaining to be counted.[47] Though the process was deemed controversial, Morales stated that he was still open to a second round runoff if the process later determined that he did not receive the required 10 percentage point victory margin needed in order to avoid a runoff.[47] Cómputo Electoral concluded its counting that very same day, with final results showing Morales with 47.07% of the vote and Mesa with 36.51%. This gave Morales a victory margin of more than 10 percentage points and thus prevented a second round runoff. This was the first election since his first win in which Morales obtained less than 50% of the vote. On the morning of the 25 October, the election results were made official.[3]

Some ballots, accounting for 0.01% of the electorate, were voided in the department of Beni. A redo session was scheduled for those affected on 3 November 2019, but the electoral commission said that those votes would not change the outcome of the presidential vote.[48][49] On 25 October 2019 the TSE cancelled the redo session after neither MAS nor 'Bolivia Dice No' protested the inclusion of the annulled ballots.[50]

Cámara de Diputados de Bolivia elecciones 2019.svgSenado de Bolivia elecciones 2019.svg
Party Presidential candidate Votes % Seats[51]
Chamber Senate
Seats +/– Seats +/–
Movement for Socialism Evo Morales 2,889,359 47.08 67 Decrease 21 21 Decrease 4
Civic Community Carlos Mesa 2,240,920 36.51 50 New 14 New
Christian Democratic Party Chi Hyun Chung 539,081 8.78 9 Decrease 1 0 Decrease 2
Democrat Social Movement[a] Óscar Ortiz Antelo 260,316 4.24 4 New[b] 1 New[b]
Third System Movement Felix Patzi 76,827 1.25 0 Steady 0 0 Steady 0
Revolutionary Nationalist Movement Virginio Lema 42,334 0.69 0 Steady 0 0 Steady 0
National Action Party of Bolivia Ruth Nina 39,826 0.65 0 Steady 0 0 Steady 0
Solidarity Civic Unity Víctor Hugo Cárdenas 25,283 0.41 0 Steady 0 0 Steady 0
The Front For Victory Israel Rodriquez 23,725 0.39 0 Steady 0 0 Steady 0
Invalid/blank votes 322,844
Total 6,460,515 100 130 0 36 0
Registered voters/turnout 7,315,364 88.31
Source: Cómputo Electoral

Results controversy[edit]

The pause in results transmission for 24 hours, which took Morales from a tight race with Mesa to an outright win, was challenged by people in Bolivia and other countries, who questioned the legitimacy of the results. Protesters and opposition politicians called for a second round to be held despite Morales' lead, as did the governments of Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, the United States, and the European Union.[3] Support for the results of the election came from the governments of Mexico, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Cuba, Palestine, the Non-Aligned Movement and the new President-elect of Argentina.[52][48][53][54][55][56][57]

The day after the election the vice-president of the TSE Antonio Costas resigned, citing his disagreement with the decision to stop transmitting results.[58] The president of the Santa Cruz Electoral Tribunal Sandra Kettels also resigned on 30 October.[59]

After an updated vote tally was announced on Friday 25 October, including previously annulled ballots in Beni, the United Nations announced that it supported an audit of the process and results, to be carried out by the OAS.[60] On Saturday 26 October, Morales invited foreign governments to carry out an audit, and promised to hold a run-off should any fraud be found.[61]

On 27 October, Morales declared that a coup d'état was in the making against his government, claiming that political rivals were planning to stage a coup the following week.[62] On 6 November, the opposition published a report claiming there had been electoral fraud, including cases where MAS allegedly obtained more votes than the number of registered voters.[63]

OAS report, annulment of election and resignation[edit]

On 9 November 2019 the Organization of American States published a preliminary report that there were "clear manipulation" including altered and forged records with alterations and forged signatures, and widescale data manipulation. On 10 November the OAS published the report of the audit conducted during the elections. The report documented "deep irregularities", adding that it was statistically unlikely that Morales had secured the 10-percentage-point margin of victory needed to win outright, saying that election should be annulled after it had found “clear manipulations” of the voting system that called into question Morales’ win and that “The manipulations to the computer systems are of such magnitude that they must be deeply investigated by the Bolivian State to get to the bottom of and assign responsibility in this serious case.[64][65] A separate statistical analysis of the results by the Center for Economic and Policy Research contradicted the OAS report and found no irregularities, concluding that due to Morales' voter based being in more rural regions, the results from peripheral areas received towards the end of the count were more likely to be in his favour.[66]

On 10 November, Morales announced that fresh elections would take place.[67][68] Several hours later,[69] Morales and his vice president, Álvaro García Linera, resigned from office after losing support from the police, the military, and former political allies.[6] Adriana Salvatierra Arriaza, the president of the Bolivian Senate, was next in the line of succession,[69] but she too resigned from office the same day.[70]


  1. ^ Reported as 'Bolivia Dice No' and/or '21F'
  2. ^ a b Participated in the previous elections with the National Unity Front


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  57. ^ President Abbas congratulates the Bolivian President for his re-election
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  70. ^ Bolivian Senate President Salvatierra announces resignation, Reuters (November 10, 2019).