Monday, December 19, 2005

Coca activist set to take Bolivian presidency

Bolivia was today on the verge of voting in its first Indian president, after the coca activist Evo Morales won an unexpectedly large majority in yesterday’s elections.



Señor Morales’s rivals conceded defeat when unofficial results compiled by the local media showed him taking close to 50 per cent of the vote, much higher than predicted.

Raucous celebrations erupted among the supporters of his Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) party as the news emerged. If confirmed by the country's Congress - by no means a formality - the man who called himself Washington’s "nightmare" would be the first Indian president in a nation with an Indian majority.

"There’s an enormous responsibility to change our history," Señor Morales told jubilant supporters last night. "And with these election results I’m convinced that the change that the Bolivian people are seeking will be respected."

Señor Morales said during the campaign that he would end a US-backed crusade to eliminate coca, the crop used to make cocaine. He also promised to reverse the nation’s free-market policies.

"I publicly and openly congratulate Don Evo Morales," said his chief rival, Jorge Quiroga, a conservative free-market advocate. "Now is the moment to set aside our differences and look to the future with peace, tranquillity and harmony among all Bolivians."

The apparent third-placed candidate, cement magnate Samuel Doria Medina, also conceded defeat: "Evo Morales won and that’s what I have to say." He had earlier vowed to throw his support in a run-off to any candidate with a 5 per cent victory margin.

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