Bolivian President Evo Morales edged early Thursday to the threshold he needs for an outright victory in his re-election bid after accusing his opponents of trying to stage a coup against him amid protests over the disputed and slow-moving vote count.
While votes remained to be counted, the leftist leader stood at the exact 10 percentage-point margin over his closest rival required to avoid a runoff ballot in December in which he could risk being defeated by a united opposition in his bid for a fourth consecutive term in office.
As the clock ticked into a new day, the official vote count moved him to a 10-point lead, with just under 2% of the votes from Sunday’s election still to be counted. He led former President Carlos Mesa 46.76% to 36.76%.
International vote monitors expressed concern at an earlier unexplained daylong gap in reporting results before a sudden spurt in Morales’ vote percentage. Opposition backers continued to stage rowdy protests since the vote, while Morales’ backers staged a march in the capital to show their support for the president.
Morales, Bolivia’s first indigenous president and the region’s longest-ruling leader, repeated his claim that he won outright and said his opponents were conspiring to oust him.