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Early Results Close in Bolivia Vote

July 2, 2002

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LA PAZ, Bolivia (AP) _ A multimillionaire former president and a longtime mayor were nearly tied Monday in a tight race for president, early elections results showed.

Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada, who was Bolivia’s president from 1993-97 and owns the country’s largest mining company, had 26.9 percent of the vote with less than a third of the ballots counted, mostly from urban areas.

Manfred Reyes Villa, a four-term mayor of the central city of Cochabamba representing the New Republican Force Party, had 26.5 percent of the vote, the national electoral court said.

If neither wins the 50 percent plus one vote that is required for outright victory, Congress will choose between the two top vote-getters ahead of the Aug. 6 presidential inauguration.

Trailing them was Jaime Paz Zamora, another former president who had 19.8 percent of the vote, followed by Evo Morales, a leftist leader of Bolivia’s coca farmers who had 11.9 percent of ballots.

Political analyst Carlos Toranzo predicted that Sanchez de Lozada would prevail, noting that his Nationalist Revolutionary Movement has a stronger presence in Congress.

Media outlets predicted late Sunday following the elections had put Morales in third with 17.9 percent, and Paz Zamora with 16 percent. Those same results, based on initial counts at voting booths throughout the country, called Sanchez de Lozada the election’s winner with 21.7 percent of the vote, and Reyes Villa in second with 20.2 percent.

The controversial Morales had surged from 4 percent to 12 percent in pre-election polls, but no one had expected him to make it into third place.

``These results show that the people really wanted a change,″ political analyst Jose Luis Scotto said.

The Aymara Indian has reached out to voters who are disillusioned with traditional politicians and fed up with 20 years of democracy that they feel has given them little.

At least six of every 10 Bolivians live in poverty, and in rural areas, nine of 10 are impoverished. Violent crime, including bank robberies, kidnappings and bombings, are on the rise in a nation once known for its tranquility.

Morales, who was expelled from Congress last year on accusations of inciting violence, has also gathered support on his left-wing promises to overturn the country’s free-market economy and eject what he terms ``imperialist Yankees.″

``Evo Morales doesn’t just represent an image of ethnicity,″ Toranzo said. ``He also represents ideas that are in style all over the world _ anti-globalization, anti-neoliberalism, anti-imperialism.″

Morales has already stated that members of his party will not form coalitions with either Sanchez de Lozada or Reyes Villa.

The 72-year-old Sanchez de Lozada, known by the nickname ``Goni,″ was seen as the safest choice in this election. He campaigned on promises to create more jobs, fight corruption and improve upon the current free-market system in Bolivia. He ushered in much of Bolivia’s capitalization as president.

``We aren’t big winners, but we’re the winners,″ he said after the media declared him the victor.

Nearly every other candidate called for either dismantling or revamping the neoliberal economic model.

Reyes Villa said he favors a ``social revolution″ and ``moving beyond″ the country’s free market system but has been short on specifics.

Paz Zamora, a Social Democrat who served as Bolivia’s president from 1989-93, has offered voters a plan that would see shares of Bolivian gas returned to the state.

Term limits prevented Jorge Quiroga from running again as president in this nation of 8.3 million people. Quiroga took over when President Hugo Banzer resigned last year after being diagnosed with cancer.