- “If we don’t unite, Morales will return.
- She however declined to state which candidate she was planning to back.
- Experts believe Anez's withdrawal is likely to favour Mesa, a centrist who welcomed her announcement.
Bolivia’s interim president, Jeanine Áñez, announced on Thursday Sept. 17 her withdrawal from the presidential race, in what analysts see as an attempt to prevent the possible victory of candidate Luis Arce, supported by country’s former president, Evo Morales, citing the risk that if the vote is divided among several candidates.
Añez said, “Today I put aside my candidacy for the presidency of Bolivia, for the sake of democracy,” Añez said, citing the risk that if the vote is divided among several candidates, the consequence of that division is likely to give Morale’s MAS party victory.
“If we don’t unite, Morales will return. If we don’t unite, democracy loses,” she added calling for unity among voters opposed to MAS. She however declined to state which candidate she was planning to back.
Sentiments by the acting president were echoed by her running mate, businessman Samuel Doria Medina, and other political allies.
Jeanine’s move to quit the electoral race came merely a day after the release of a national opinion poll by the Catholic foundation Jubileo in which she appeared in fourth place, with 7% of the voting intentions, behind Arce (29.2%), former President Carlos Mesa (19%) and the regional civic leader Luis Fernando Camacho (10.4%).
The interim president took office in November 2019, following Morales’ resignation due to social upheaval.
She promised to lead a transitional government with the aim of calling for new elections in 2020, but in January, she announced that she would run for president, a decision that was strongly criticized by her opponents as well as a section of her allies.
Following Áñez’s announcement, versions immediately emerged that the interim president opened a negotiation channel with Mesa to form a coalition against MAS at the ballot box.
Experts believe Anez’s withdrawal is likely to favour Mesa, a centrist who welcomed her announcement. “I value the decision made by President Anez as a contribution to democracy,” Mesa said in a Tweet, “we are always ready for dialogue.”
The Minister of Public Works, Iván Arias, guaranteed “that nothing is enshrined”, in reference to possible political negotiations, but said that “the important thing was to take this first step”.
MAS spokeswoman Marianela Paco said in an irritated tone that Áñez’s decision “is based on the script drawn by the Bolivian right wing, which deals with alliances based on hatred, against the only party of the people”.
Paco added that Arce, if elected, will work to resolve Bolivian problems, both economic and health.
After Áñez’s announcement, doubts arose as to whether the candidacy’s withdrawal is valid, since the Supreme Electoral Court (TSE) is currently in the stage of printing ballots for around 7.3 million voters.
In addition, Áñez’s party, Juntos, registered candidates for senators and deputies in the elections.
A TSE source said that what remains for the moment is that the interim president formalize his resignation and that the electoral magistrates issue a resolution.
This year’s presidential and legislative elections, which were postponed three times due to the pandemic. The elections are a repeat of the fierce October 2019 elections, which sparked protests across the country that led to Morales’s resignation.