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The situation in Bolivia will get worse before it gets better

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The results of Bolivia's October 20 elections were hardly a surprise. Thirteen years of social and economic successes in one of Latin America's poorest countries - including reducing extreme poverty by 60 percent and sustaining per capita GDP growth at double the average rate of the rest of Latin America - made the incumbent president Evo Morales the clear front-runner.

The polls certainly foresaw a Morales win and many of them predicted a Morales victory without the need for runoff. For that to happen, he needed 40 percent of the votes with at least a 10-point lead ahead of his closest rival.

The official results confirmed those predictions. Morales secured 47.07 percent of the vote, compared to 36.51 percent for his opponent, Carlos Mesa, himself a former caretaker president after the ouster of President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada in 2003. Significantly, the Movement Toward Socialism (MAS), Morales's political party, also won a majority in the legislative assembly: 68 seats out of 130 in the lower house, and 21 out of 36 in the senate.

The OAS mission of Electoral Observers, however, immediately cast doubt on the integrity of the electoral process and then called on Bolivia's electoral authorities to "convene a second round" of the presidential elections. The mission's main complaint was what it called the "change of trend" in the vote count in the first 24 hours after the elections.

In fact, as a report I coauthored on the elections has clearly demonstrated, Morales's increase in his margin of victory as more votes were counted was entirely consistent with the prior trend. As in prior elections, areas that overwhelmingly favoured Morales were simply counted later than those favoring his opponents. After accounting for geography, there simply was no "change of trend."

But the doubts cast by the OAS mission on the election results emboldened Mesa and a growing and diverse protest movement. Roadblocks and barricades appeared. There were calls for strikes. Soon large sectors of the opposition demanded that the elections be annulled, and some called for........

© Al Jazeera