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Bolivia Set to Vote for President after Polarized Campaign
By Staff, Agencies
Bolivians will vote for a new president on Sunday.
For the first time in two decades the name of Evo Morales will not be on the ballot paper.
Yet not only does the shadow of the landlocked country's first ever indigenous president loom large over the poll, he is the reason it is taking place at all.
Morales stood for, and won, an unconstitutional fourth term in a controversial election last year that sparked weeks of protests against his victory.
Now living in neighboring Argentina, Morales is barred from standing but his hand-picked successor as the Movement for Socialism [MAS] candidate, Luis Arce, leads opinion polls.
According to analysts Eurasia Group, "polls point to a very close race with... Arce within reach of a first-round victory."
Additionally, a Ciesmori poll released last week put Arce ahead with 30.7 percent of votes compared to his main challenger, the centrist former president Carlos Mesa with 24.7 percent.
To win outright in the first round, Arce would need to poll 40 percent with a 10-point advantage over his nearest challenger.
"While the margin will be close, we remain of the view Mesa will take the race to a 29 November runoff, which he would be favored to win," said Eurasia Group's analyst for Brazil and Bolivia, Filipe Gruppelli Carvalho.
Unless Arce wins in the first round, the other five candidates are expected to endorse Mesa in a runoff.
Mesa has already been boosted by the withdrawal from the race of conservative interim president Jeanine Anez, who quit a month ago after dropping to fourth in opinion polls.
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