© BloombergAn attendee shows a sign replicating an electoral ballot during a campaign rally for Presidential candidate for the Movement for Socialism party (MAS) Luis Arce in La Paz, Bolivia, on Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020. Former Economy and Public Finance Minister Luis Arce leads voter intention with 33.6% to 26.8% for former President Carlos Mesa.
(Bloomberg) -- Vote-counting has started Bolivia's in presidential and congressional elections with the socialist movement seeking a return to power a year after their leader Evo Morales was ousted and fled the country.
Morales's ally Luis Arce, a U.K.-educated economist, was ahead in polls, but needs to avoid a run-off in which voters opposed to his socialist party can unite behind a single candidate.
His main opponent is former President Carlos Mesa, an ex-journalist who led the country from 2003-2005.
Some store owners in La Paz boarded up their windows as a precaution again possible unrest, and security forces deployed heavily in the city's main avenues.
The vote is the first since last year's chaotic election, which led to violent unrest and accusations of fraud. Since then, Bolivia has been run by an unelected transition government which Arce and his supporters regard as illegitimate.
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To win in the first round, a candidate needs more than 50% of the vote, or more than 40% of the vote plus a margin of ten percentage points over the runner-up. If no one wins in the first round, there'll be a runoff on Nov. 29.
Polls closed at 5 p.m local time, though people still waiting in line are allowed to cast their vote. The day before the election, the electoral tribunal said it will only publish the results of the manual count and won't use the parallel quick-count system. This may delay the publication of results.
Salvador Romero, the head of the tribunal, told reporters that he expects vote-counting to take less than the five-day legal limit, though he didn't give a date.
(Adds that vote-counting has started, in first paragraph)
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