In Bolivia, the first general elections to be held for 12 years have been conducted amid allegations of widespread electoral malpractice.
In Bolivia, the first general elections to be held for 12 years have been conducted amid allegations of widespread electoral malpractice. The country's two million voters went to the polls on Sunday(9 July) and since then opposition parties have claimed that ballot boxes were interfered with, votes miscounted and electoral registers rigged.
SYNOPSIS: The Bolivian capital, La Paz was quiet on polling day. The government had ordered the closure of all shops and bars, the banning of the sale of alcohol and stopped public transport. With only official vehicles allowed on the streets and private cars banned, the city centre was empty except for the queues of Bolivians waiting to cast their votes. Over 40 per cent of the electorate is illiterate, so ballot papers were in eight colours to enable the voters to distinguish between the candidates.
The retiring President, General Hugo Banzer came to power after a military coup in 1971. Officially his government is not supporting any candidate in the election but several members of General Banzer's cabinet and the armed forces have openly backed former Air Force Commander, General Juan Pereda Asbun. After casting his vote, General Banzer's finger was inked - a measure taken to ensure no-one votes twice.
Latest results give General Pereda a lead of 295 thousand votes over his nearest rival. Opposition candidate claim that some ballot boxes containing anti-pereda votes were switched before being counted and that some were thrown into Lake Titicaca, near La Paz. The Centrist Party candidate, Victor Paz Estenssoro is far behind the poll leaders, but his share of the vote could effect the final result since the winner needs an absolute majority.
Nine International observers from Human Rights Organisations have witnessed the elections. They claim election rules were broken on behalf of General Pereda. alleging that in rural area there were more registered voters than inhabitants and that soldiers supervising the poll only supplied voters with green Pereda ballot slips. General Pereda has denied all the accusations and said left-wingers were determined to disrupt the election and had themselves fraudulently obtained votes. One of the chief critics of government handling of the election left-wing coalition candidate, Dr Hernan Siles Zuazo, has said the official figures are incorrect and that although he appears to have lost to General Pereda, he is in fact the real victor and is prepared to lead a coalition government.