Morales, banned from working this time, is watching from Argentina as his former finance minister, front-runner Luis Arce, 57, faces two important opponents, the centrist former president Carlos Mesa, 67, and right-wing nationalist Luis Camacho, 41. Fears have run excessive of a repeat of the violence final yr that included mobs burning poll containers and clashes within the streets. However voting Sunday appeared largely calm.

Nonetheless, socialist backers grew more and more nervous because the night time wore on and Bolivian media shops and ballot takers appeared to withhold the usually scheduled launch of exit polls, even because the official depend was coming in painstakingly slowly. Morales appeared to counsel that the data was being withheld as a result of it probably confirmed an even bigger night time for the socialists than the right-wing interim authorities wished to right away reveal.

“What’s the delay?” Morales tweeted late Sunday. “What are they hiding?”

As of 10 p.m., lower than 1 % of the official votes had been being tallied, suggesting the identical sort of counting delays that plagued final yr’s ill-fated vote. In a shock resolution Saturday, Bolivia’s electoral tribunal introduced that it might not launch the normal quick-count projection of the result as initially anticipated on Sunday. The tribunal stated it as an alternative would wait to launch outcomes till all ballots had been counted or tallies confirmed an indeniable pattern.

The choice, made out of what it described as an abundance of warning in a extremely polarized race, got here as either side went into the vote claiming that the opposite was going to cheat.

Personal exit polls may nonetheless be launched within the remaining hours of Sunday or early Monday, specialists predicted, providing perception into an election considered as a gauge of the energy of democracy in Latin America. However the tribunal’s resolution meant Bolivians would possibly wait a day or two, and probably as much as per week, for official outcomes.

“We ask the folks for endurance,” Salvador Romero, head of the electoral tribunal, advised reporters in La Paz. “We have to be sure concerning the outcomes.”

Dozens of law enforcement officials gathered in entrance of MAS marketing campaign headquarters in La Paz late Sunday, apparently to protect the ability. Photos on Bolivia TV confirmed police cordoning off a piece of the road.

Arce condemned the choice to withhold partial outcomes. He stated his celebration, the Motion Towards Socialism, or MAS, was conducting its personal depend and would give “precedence” to that outcome.

“It is a step again within the strategy of transparency,” he advised reporters after casting his vote Sunday.

However Mesa known as the choice comprehensible, on condition that the discharge of partial votes had sparked violence final yr.

“It’s not the perfect, however we perceive,” he stated. “We’re going to be affected person, and we ask folks to be affected person.”

Analysts warned {that a} prolonged delay may ratchet up tensions.

“It provides to the uncertainty and the nervousness,” stated Kathryn Ledebur, director of the Andean Info Community in Cochabamba. “You now have up a interval of as much as per week the place something may occur.”

Going into Sunday, opinion polls confirmed Arce near the edge wanted for a first-round victory. To keep away from a runoff, a candidate should win greater than 50 % of the vote, or no less than 40 % with a 10-point margin of victory.

Analysts say Mesa, working second within the polls, would grow to be the favourite in a second spherical of voting subsequent month, assuming the opposition to the socialists coalesces round him. Camacho has trailed each males within the polls by important margins.

Carla Nina Martínez, a 30-year-old nurse voting in a rural space simply south of La Paz, described herself as a longtime supporter of the left. However she stated she was altering her vote this yr to assist Mesa.

“I worth some issues that President Evo Morales did. Every thing was going very properly,” she stated. “However ultimately, as at all times, politics find yourself being corrupt.”

A survivor of covid-19, the illness brought on by the novel coronavirus, she stated she blamed the Áñez authorities for a poorly executed coronavirus plan.

“Through the excessive factors of the pandemic, we had been by no means supplied with private protecting gear, and well being personnel ended up being contaminated,” she stated.

Santos Vallejo, 52, stated the nation’s dangerous economic system within the midst of the coronavirus pandemic led him to vote for the socialists.

Underneath socialist governments, “we had jobs,” he stated outdoors a polling station in El Alto, a socialist stronghold close to La Paz. “I imagine MAS will win as a result of we, the poor, are with them.”

Greater than 10,000 troops had been known as out to maintain the peace. In a message clearly aimed on the socialists, Áñez’s influential inside minister, Arturo Murillo, led a present of drive on Saturday with troopers and armored autos on the streets of La Paz. Murillo stated the hassle was meant to stop “the return of dictators” — a transparent reference to Morales, who was democratically elected 3 times earlier than his controversial bid for a fourth time period final yr.

Arce has sought to distance himself from Morales. In an interview final week with The Washington Put up, Arce stated Morales would wish to face the justice system to defend himself in opposition to “quite a few” prices if he returned.

“We expect that our comrade Evo has each proper, if he so needs, to return to the nation and defend himself,” Arce stated.

Faiola reported from Miami. Ana Vanessa Herrero in Caracas, Venezuela, contributed to this report.