LA PAZ – Voters responded to calls by the opposition to cast null ballots in the judicial elections held in Bolivia over the weekend, making the vote a referendum on the recent court ruling allowing President Evo Morales to seek a fourth straight term in the 2019 general elections.
Some 53.75 percent of the ballots cast for seats on the Supreme Court of Justice were null, while just 33.3 percent were valid, with 80 percent of the vote counted, initial results released by the national elections commission showed.
In the Magistrates Council election, 53.66 percent of the ballots were null, while 31.1 percent were valid and 15.2 percent were blank.
Some 12.9 percent of the ballots cast for seats on the he Agroenvironmental Court were blank.
Null votes ranged from 48 percent to 59 percent for the Supreme Court of Justice in Bolivia’s nine regions, while valid votes ranged from 26 percent to 41 percent.
Government Minister Carlos Romero told the private Red Uno network that the Morales administration was “happy” with the results because they continued the “long tradition of participatory democracy” in the Andean nation.
On Sunday, Morales said after voting in Villa 14 de Septiembre, the city in the central region of Cochabamba that is his political stronghold, that he expected a positive reaction to the election.
“I know there’s going to be a high turnout because the only way to change the Bolivian justice system is by participating in this election of judges,” Morales said.
On Nov. 28, Bolivia’s Constitutional Tribunal ruled that Morales can run in the 2019 election in pursuit of what would be a fourth consecutive term.
In a February 2016 referendum, voters rejected Morales’s bid to amend the constitution to allow him to run for re-election once again in 2019.
Morales, however, contends that the referendum’s outcome was tainted by a flurry of negative stories in the media about him in the weeks ahead of the vote.
The damaging stories centered on a former girlfriend of the president who claimed – falsely – to have had a child with Morales.
A fourth term would extend Morales’s tenure to 2025.
The national elections commission expects to release the final results by Wednesday.