Evo Morales Wins Bolivia Presidential Election
TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Evo Morales easily won a third term as Bolivia's president on the strength of the economic and political stability the coca growers' union leader has brought to the South American country.
Morales, a native Aymara from Bolivia's poor, wind-swept Andean plateau, received 60 percent of the vote against 25 percent for cement magnate Samuel Doria Medina, the top vote-getter among four challengers, according to a quick count of 97 percent of the voting stations by the Ipsos firm for ATB television.
Doria Medina conceded defeat late Sunday promising to "keep working to make a better country," AP reported.
Morales' supporters ran out into the streets to celebrate the win. In a victory speech from the balcony of the presidential palace in La Paz, Morales dedicated his victory to Cuba's Fidel Castro and the late Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez.
"It is triumph of the anti-colonialists and anti-imperialists," Morales said in a booming voice. "We are going to keep growing and we are going to continue the process of economic liberation."
Morales won eight of Bolivia's nine states, including the former opposition stronghold of Santa Cruz, an agribusiness center in the eastern lowlands where he polled 51 percent, according to Ipsos.
Morales will now eclipse as Bolivia's longest-serving leader consecutively in office the 19th century Marshal Andres de Santa Cruz, a founder of the republic in power from 1829-1839.
While known internationally for his anti-imperialist and socialist remarks, the 55-year-old coca growers' union leader is widely popular at home for a pragmatic economic stewardship that spread Bolivia's natural gas and mineral wealth among the masses.
A boom in commodities prices increased export revenues nine-fold and the country has accumulated $15.5 billion in international reserves. Economic growth has averaged 5 percent annually, well above the regional average. A half a million people have put poverty behind them since Bolivia's first indigenous president first took office in 2006.
Public works projects abound, including a satellite designed to deliver Internet to rural schools, a fertilizer plant and La Paz's gleaming new cable car system. His newest promise: to light up La Paz with nuclear power.
Morales had sought Sunday to improve on his previous best showing — 64 percent in 2009 — and to maintain a two-thirds control of Bolivia's Senate and assembly. That would let him change the constitution, which restricts presidents to two 5-year terms, so he can run again.
He has not said whether he would seek a fourth term, only that he would "respect the constitution." He did say in a TV interview last week, however, that he didn't believe people over the age of 60 should be president.
A court ruled last year that Morales could run for a third term because his first preceded a constitutional rewrite. All seats were up for grabs in the 36-member Senate and 130-member lower house. Results were not immediately available.