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Rightist Candidate Claims Victory in Popular Vote

July 16, 1985

LA PAZ, Bolivia (AP) _ Rightist candidate Hugo Banzer Suarez claimed a plurality of the popular vote for president and said he expects to win a runoff election in Congress without sacrificing his conservative platform.

However, Banzer’s leading opponent was cutting into the former military strongman’s margin as results trickled in from the countryside. The campaign manager for Victor Paz Estenssoro’s Nationalist Revolutionary Movement called Banzer’s claim ″audacious, a manipulation of incomplete results.″

Banzer told reporters Monday night that: ″Under the law, it is possible for any of the three leading candidates to be elected, but we expect the results of the popular vote to be respected by Congress.″

He said he expected to win the popular vote by at least 150,000 votes out of an estimated 1.6 million.

Banzer made his first public comment on Sunday’s election after unofficial returns from a third of the polls, most of them in the cities, gave him 39 percent of the vote.

Paz Estenssoro, a 77-year-old former president, had 24 percent, and Jaime Paz Zamora, the leading leftist candidate, was third with 9 percent. There also were 14 other candidates.

The failure of any candidate to win an outright majority means Congress, also elected Sunday, will meet Aug. 2 to choose the next president. He will take office Aug. 6 for a four-year term.

Banzer’s Nationalist Democratic Action Party was expected to win 16 of the 27 Senate seats but no more than 46 in the 130-seat Chamber of Deputies.

His party favors a lower government profile in the economy, and resumption of debt payments to international banks suspended in 1982 as long as they do not halt recovery from a prolonged economic crisis. It will sacrifice ″neither its ideology nor its program of government″ in exchange for electoral support in Congress, Banzer said.

He added: ″We want to be the government of all Bolivians. We want to open our arms to everyone so they can help us solve the economic crisis of this country.″ Bolivia’s inflation rate so far this year has been estimated at about 5,000 percent, highest in the world.

Paz Zamora, 46, who was banished into exile during Banzer’s military regime in the 1970s, did not rule out throwing his support in Congress to Banzer if his old enemy maintained a commanding plurality of the popular vote. But he said it was too early to forecast results.

Paz Estenssoro’s middle-of-the road populist party, which has strong support among the Indian peasants who make up half the electorate, refused to concede defeat in the popular vote.

The electoral court began its official hand count of the paper ballots Monday and annulled those from 10 of the first 30 polling tables in La Paz for irregularities, court officials said. The news worried Banzer’s party, which was winning in La Paz and four other major cities.

Banzer used a state of siege to ban strikes and banish political foes while ruling the country from 1971 to 1978. This time he aims to ″re-establish the rule of law″ without resort to emergency decrees, he said.

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