Bolivian leader says no 'political negotiation' with challenger

La Paz (AFP) –


Bolivia leader Evo Morales vowed Saturday there would be no "political negotiation" following the country's presidential election whose disputed results have triggered violent protests across the country.

Morales was declared the outright winner of the October 20 vote, after a sudden change in the ballot count extended his margin of victory over challenger Carlos Mesa beyond the 10 percentage points needed to avoid a run-off.

Mesa, a former president who is backed by a collective of centrist and right-wing parties, said Saturday that he "rejected and ignored the closure of the national count of the general elections... because it is the result of fraud and a breach of the popular will."

Morales shot back defiantly later in the day.

"I want to tell you: Here there is no political negotiation. Here the Constitution is respected, as is the party that won the last national election. I want the Bolivian right wing to know that," the leftist leader said during a speech in Cochabamba in central Bolivia.

With all the votes counted, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) gave Morales 47.08 percent and Mesa 36.5 percent.

The poll triggered a week of violent protests, as rival supporters clashed with security forces and each other in La Paz and elsewhere.

Mesa has called on his supporters to maintain street protests. Thousands of demonstrators blocked streets in major cities around the country on Saturday, erecting barricades and waving the red, yellow and green Bolivian flag.

- Calls for a runoff -

The official result means Morales has won a fourth successive term despite the constitution he promulgated in 2009 limiting presidents to two mandates. The country's highest court, considered friendly to Morales, overturned the term-limit rule.

Morales, 60, urged those who accuse him of fraud to provide evidence.

"We aren't hiding anything, we aren't lying. You don't want to think about this fraud, of which they've given no proof. Everything is lies and lies," he said.

The president had said earlier on Saturday he would be happy to contest a second round if there was any evidence of graft.

"If there is fraud, the next day we call the second round," he said.

The European Union, United States, Brazil, Argentina and Colombia have called for a runoff to restore trust and confidence in the electoral process.

Following the international outcry, Morales suggested that the Washington-based Organization of American States (OAS) conduct an audit, to which its secretary-general Luis Almagro agreed.

"We have heard the position of the foreign ministries of #Colombia, #Argentina, #Brazil and the #US," Morales tweeted. "I invite those and other countries to participate in the audit we have proposed."

OAS had already expressed "surprise" and "concern" over the sudden shift in favor of Morales.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Friday he "fully" supported OAS scrutiny, though no date or conditions for such an undertaking have been publicized.

The TSE has been heavily criticized for its conduct of the vote count, including by its own vice president, who resigned.

President since 2006, Morales's election win extends his mandate to 2025.