Bolivian President Evo Morales’ Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS) party secured modest victories in yesterday’s regional elections and won control of at least five of Bolivia’s nine departments, according to exit polls. Although official results will not be released for nearly three weeks, candidates from the MAS party have reportedly won clear statistical majorities in the traditional stronghold highland provinces of La Paz, Cochabamba, Oruro, and Potosí. The opposition, however, appears also to have maintained majorities in several key provinces. This means that the elections are unlikely to alter Bolivia’s political landscape.
Morales acknowledged some disappointments and challenged his opponents in resource-rich Eastern provinces like Santa Cruz to collaborate with the government, saying “the opposition should understand that this process of change is unstoppable.” Incumbent Santa Cruz Governor Ruben Costas framed his re-election win in starker terms, announcing that “the forces of democracy have defeated tyranny.”
Experts on Bolivian politics say yesterday’s results clearly prove that support for the Bolivian president’s policies remains high. However, the lack of any serious political opposition at the federal level poses its own challenges to Morales: “the real question now is whether the MAS will fragment—and whether Bolivia's politics will see battles within an all-powerful party that faces no clear or united opposition,” says the BBC’s Bolivia correspondent, Andres Schipani.