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THREAD: If you haven't been following the situation in Bolivia here's a rundown. Briefly, the OAS, an emboldened opposition (which clearly is not the most popular party in the country), the media, and the Trump admin ousted a successful leftist leader. For the longer story:
Evo Morales, the first indigenous president in a country that is majority indigenous, has overseen an economic transformation since his first term, and he's very popular to this day. cepr.net/publications/r…
He was initially barred from running for another term by term limits. He sought a referendum to abolish term limits, but it was narrowly defeated. Yet the Supreme Court ruled that term limits were unconstitutional, so he was permitted to run again.
(If you think this invalidates the election or means that Morales is "authoritarian," please explain to me why court decisions in Bolivia should be interpreted in a different way than any other country.)
The election happened on October 20. To win in this first round, a candidate needs to get at least 50% of the vote, or 40% and win by 10 percentage points over the next highest candidate.
To understand what all the controversy is about you need to know that there are two counts in the Bolivian system. The TREP (quick count) and the official count. The quick count is so that on election night, some results are released.
The Organization of American States (OAS), which observes elections and provides technical guidance, has been recommending these types of systems and implementing them in a variety of countries, including Bolivia. oas.org/EOMDatabase/mo…
(This list has more places where it's been implemented: oas.org/es/sap/deco/Co…)
A quick count is supposed to provide confidence that election is progressing normally and give the media something to report on. To me, two sets of results seem like it would be confusing. And this time, it was!
As the results were coming in, Carlos Mesa, Morales' main opponent was already saying how he had progressed to the second round. He was saying this based on the quick count, and based on incomplete results from the quick count. Here he is: bbc.com/news/world-lat…
When the quick count reached 83.85% of vote sheets counted, the electoral authority held a press conference reporting the result. The results at this point were Morales 45.71% and Mesa receiving 37.84%, a difference of 7.87 percentage points.
This would indicate a second round, but remember this is only 83.85% of the results and is *not* the official count. At this point --- and this is where the controversy started --- the electoral authorities stopped the quick count.
They gave several reasons which all seem to be true: the official count had started and they didn't want to confuse people, they had pledged to release at more than 80% and did, they were investigating how one of their contractors used a server.
(Here's 11 days before the election: la-razon.com/nacional/anima…)
The OAS, Mesa, and other immediately condemned the electoral authority and put pressure on them to restart the quick count. It is unclear why. In nationwide races, the quick never has gotten to 100%. It's hard to count rural votes in that timeframe.
Here's what we found in our paper. As you can see the quick count gets to a certain level (which has been increasing over time for nationwide votes it seems) and the electoral authority has a press conference and suspends it. That's *exactly* what they did this time.
Eventually, the electoral authority was under so much pressure, especially because the media conflated the official and quick counts, that they restarted the quick count. There were going to release a final quick count result but got pressure again to report results continuously.
So at 95.63% of vote sheets counted, they reported Morales having a lead of 46.86% to Mesa’s 36.72%. This is slightly over 10 percentage points, so all hell broke loose, and they were immediately accused of fraud.
I should point out here that we are still *not* talking about the official count, which is the only legal vote count. Anyway, the OAS released a statement where they said that the jump for Morales between these two data points was impossible.
It was an "inexplicable change in trend that drastically modifies the fate of the election," which was repeated in a later report. oas.org/en/media_cente… oas.org/documents/eng/…
But as our paper shows, it's not only possible, it's probable. There's little change in trend between before the quick count was suspended and after it was restarted. cepr.net/publications/r…
This is because Morales' support is largely rural, and thus reports results later. This quick count trend matches very well with the eventually official count result, as well as the results from the legislative elections. 500 scenarios show Morales' margin:
Eventually, the official count was released: Morales won in the first round 47.08% to 36.51%. If you had been watching the polls before the election, 5 out of 6 of them predicted the same result. Weird to have a fraud that matches up with polls. as-coa.org/articles/poll-…
Unfortunately, the damage was done especially because the media misunderstood the difference between the two counts, and the opposition started terrorizing Morales supporters in the streets. Morales agreed to abide by an OAS audit of the results, but curiously Mesa did not.
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