SHAFAQNA (International Shia News Association) – Bolivia’s President Evo Morales has claimed victory and a third term in office after presidential elections.
“This win is a triumph for anti-imperialists and anti-colonialists,” he told cheering supporters at the presidential palace in La Paz.
Exit polls show him on 60%, well ahead of his rivals, as votes are counted.
To avoid a run-off, Mr Morales must win 50% of valid votes, or 40% if that includes a 10-point lead over his nearest rival.
Mr Morales has overseen strong economic growth since taking office in 2006 and has been widely tipped to win.
He has presided over a a period of economic growth and reduced poverty, using Bolivia’s commodity wealth to reduce poverty levels.
But he has been criticised for failing to halt corruption.
Mr Morales’s party, the Movement Toward Socialism, is also expected to make gains and win a strong majority in Congress.
The poll passed without major incident, according to the electoral authorities and foreign observers.
Analysis: Ignacio de los Reyes, BBC News
Evo Morales became the first indigenous president in 2006 and is even more popular now, and not only among his Aymara ethnic group.
Ignacio de los Reyes reports from La Paz
He won the trust of many thanks to Bolivia’s good economic performance. Supermarkets, cinemas and restaurants are popping up everywhere.
The new cable car in La Paz is perhaps the best example of the changing times in Bolivia, which remains one of the poorest countries in the region.
It connects La Paz with the satellite city of El Alto, home to thousands of migrants. There, a monument to Che Guevara sits next to a brand new shopping centre, surrounded by thousands of poorly built stalls selling counterfeit products.
Since 2006, Mr Morales’s government has focused on education subsidies, increased pensions and spending on public works.
He has been boosted by a boom in commodities prices that has helped boost export revenues nine-fold.
The revenue has helped fund policies that have created an average annual economic growth of 5%, well above the regional average.
It has also funded public works projects, including a cable car system for the capital, La Paz.
Some 500,000 people have been taken out of poverty.
The oil, gas, mining, telecommunications and water sectors have all been nationalised.
Mr Morales’s critics say he has introduced anti-environment measures and presided over a corrupt administration.
He is also accused of using millions of dollars in government cash to fund his re-election campaign and that this has helped create a fractured opposition.
Heading into the elections, Samuel Doria Medina was Mr Morales’ closest rival.
Mr Doria Medina vowed to clean up the judiciary if elected.
Mr Morales will want to maintain his two-thirds control of Bolivia’s Senate and assembly, which are also holding elections.
This could allow him to alter the constitution to permit a fourth term in office.
Mr Morales has already benefited from a court ruling that permitted him to run for a third term.
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