Bolivian political camps struck as election race begins

By Daniel Ramos

LA PAZ (Reuters) – Bolivia’s 2020 presidential election will be contested by eight candidates who registered by a Monday deadline to compete in the re-run of a fraught October ballot that sparked protests and led to the downfall of long-term leftist leader Evo Morales.

The May 3 election will see a fair share of controversy with caretaker President Jeanine Anez running despite criticism that she is overstepping her interim mandate, while Morales is eyeing a return from exile in Argentina to be candidate in the senate.

Conservative Anez, a former senator, will go head-to-head with a number of recent allies, including civic leader Luis Fernando Camacho, former President Jorge Tuto Quiroga and October runner-up Carlos Mesa.

They form a fragmented opposition against Morales’ own Movement for Socialism (MAS) party, which has former Economy Minister Luis Arce at the top of the ticket.

Anez, who took over in a political vacuum after the resignation of Morales and a number of his deputies in November, sparked a backlash from allies and opponents alike when she announced plans to run last month.

Morales is directing his party’s campaign from Argentina. MAS leads in recent polls against the divided opposition, but not by enough to avoid a second round run-off.

The country’s electoral tribunal still needs to formally rubber stamp the candidates as eligible to run, leaving a question mark over whether Morales will be allowed to be a candidate for the senate despite residing overseas.

The landlocked South American nation, which is grappling with economic slowdown, was plunged into political crisis last year over allegations of electoral fraud after Morales won an election handing him a fourth term in defiance of term limits.

(Reporting by Daniel Ramos; Writing by Adam Jourdan; Editing by Richard Chang)