Vote-counting has been slow since Sunday's election, resulting in nationwide protests. But after accusing opponents of attempting a coup, incumbent President Evo Morales now looks set for a fourth straight term.
Bolivian President Evo Morales edged closer on Thursday to the threshold he needs for an outright victory in his reelection bid. Morales accused his opponents of trying to stage a coup against him, following a wave of protests over the disputed vote.
The leftist incumbent posted a 10-point lead over conservative rival Carlos Mesa in the presidential election vote count, official data showed for the first time in the early hours of Thursday.
With just over 98% of the slower, binding count completed, Morales led Mesa 46.76% to 36.76%. That gap would mean he would avoid a risky second round runoff.
"It is not official, but we already won," Morales said at a press conference in La Paz.
Opposition leaders, meanwhile, complained of fraud and international vote monitors expressed concern at an unexplained day-long interruption in reporting results earlier this week.
Officials abruptly stopped releasing results from the quick count of votes hours after the polls closed Sunday with Morales leading the eight other candidates, but also falling several percentage points short of the threshold needed to avoid the first runoff in his nearly 14 years in power.
The crisis was aggravated by the resignation of the vice president of the electoral council, Antonio Costas, who said he disagreed with the decision to interrupt transmission of the vote count.
Yet the president claimed an outright victory late Sunday, telling supporters that the votes still to be counted — largely from rural areas where he is most popular — would be enough to give him an outright victory.
Supporters of Morales rallied on Monday outside the Supreme Electoral Court where election ballots are being counted in La Paz
"Let them present a single piece of evidence that I'm corrupt. I defy them," Morales said on Thursday.
Region's longest-ruling leader
Morales is Bolivia's first indigenous president and the region's longest-ruling leader. If declared winner, he would begin a fourth term as president. Bolivia's constitution limits presidents to serving two terms, a move upheld by a 2016 referendum.
But the nation's Constitutional Court — seen by critics as being stacked with the president's loyalists — overturned the decision and ruled that it would violate Morales' human rights to deny his candidacy.
sri,jcg/rt (AP, Reuters)