Morales party tops Bolivia opinion poll

Ex president Evo Morales’ socialist party topped an opinion poll published Sunday just over three months out from a general election in Bolivia.

The poll results came two days after interim president Jeanine Anez — who took over from Morales a little over two months ago — announced she would stand in the May 3 election.

However, Anez came only fourth in the poll with 12 percent as the former president’s Movement for Socialism (MAS) — whose candidate is former economy minister Luis Arce — came top with 26 percent.

Centrist ex president Carlos Mesa — who finished second to Morales in an October election that was subsequently annulled — and right-wing Luis Fernando Camacho each polled 17 percent in the survey by Mercados y Muestras and published in the Pagina Siete newspaper.

The poll was conducted between January 9-13 — before MAS picked Arce as its candidate — so his name did not appear on questionnaire.

Protests broke out after Morales was declared the winner of the October 20 election amid accusations of fraud.

Three weeks of at times violent unrest followed before Morales resigned after an audit by the Organization of American states found clear evidence the poll was rigged in the then-president’s favor.

Morales fled the country as dozens were killed in further rioting, mostly by his MAS supporters.

He now lives in exile in Argentina and has been barred from standing in the May election.

Conservative Anez initially claimed when assuming the interim presidency that she had no intention of running in the election.

However, after two influential ministers urged her to change her mind, she announced on Friday she would indeed stand.

Morales welcomed Anez’s candidacy in a message on Saturday in which he said “it’s her right.”

Anez’s candidacy risks splitting the vote of those opposed to MAS and increases Arce’s chances of winning outright in the first round.

To win outright in the first round, a candidate needs more than 50 percent or a minimum of 40 percent and a lead of at least 10 points over the next candidate.

Should he fail to do so, experts expect his opponent in an eventual June run-off to triumph.

“In all the polls we’re first,” Morales said on Twitter.

“In the next polls we’ll be much further ahead.”

Political analyst Marcelo Silva said the poll shows MAS remains popular, particularly in rural areas and the suburbs of big cities.

“The figures undoubtedly show that MAS benefits from that hard vote,” said Silva.

Candidates have until February 3 to register for the election.