Bolivia election re-run postponed to October as pandemic bites
By Daniel Ramos
LA PAZ, July 23 (Reuters) - Bolivia's presidential election will be postponed until Oct. 18 amid rising cases of COVID-19 in the South American nation, the head of the electoral tribunal said on Thursday, drawing criticism from leftist former leader Evo Morales.
The novel coronavirus has hit Bolivia hard, with the conservative interim President Jeanine Anez and many of her Cabinet testing positive, casting a shadow over the election, a re-run of a fraught ballot late last year.
The October date would be almost exactly a year after the 2019 general election, which sparked widespread protests over accusations of electoral fraud and led to the resignation of the country's long-term leftist leader Morales.
The new election had been due to take place on Sept. 6, already delayed from an initial date in May, but there had been increasingly vocal calls to postpone it with infections rising and healthcare systems struggling to cope.
In a press conference in La Paz, tribunal President Salvador Romero said the vote would be pushed back to ensure the safety of voters, though he acknowledged strongly divided opinions over the matter.
Morales, who is in Argentina but still closely involved with his socialist political party, said on Twitter the delay "will only harm the people" and blamed the interim government for poorly managing the response to the pandemic.
Bolivia, with a population of about 11.5 million, has confirmed over 64,000 cases of COVID-19, with more than 2,300 deaths from the disease, official data show.
The new election schedule would see a second round held on Nov. 29 if there was no clear winner in the first round vote.
(Reporting by Daniel Ramos; Writing by Adam Jourdan; Editing by Richard Chang)
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