As often happens when an elite-driven coup leads to US-endorsed regime change, there are powerful attempts to disguise its real character. A recurrent method is to blame the coup on its victim. Of this, the November 10, 2019 coup in Bolivia is a textbook example. The narrative went as follows. Bolivian president Evo Morales, eager to perpetuate himself in power, orchestrated a fraudulent election. His people saw this as deceitful and authoritarian. A popular uprising ensued, eventually leading to Morales’s resignation and exile.
How such a storyline could have prospered, despite the absence of any solid evidence regarding election rigging, raises questions about the media and its role. It also sounds the alarm as to the part played by the institution that generated this narrative in the first place: The Organization of American States (OAS).
On October 21, the day after Bolivia’s presidential elections, the OAS Mission of Electoral Observers in Bolivia issued a press release expressing “its deep concern and surprise at the drastic and hard-to-explain change in the trend of the preliminary results revealed after the closing of the polls”. Two days later, the Mission’s preliminary report reiterated this claim and expressed its concern that the quick count “had been interrupted”. The OAS report called for a second round of voting, in contrast to the official results that put Morales on 47.07 percent and afforded him the ten-point lead he needed over his closest contender Carlos Mesa, on 36.51 percent, to avoid a runoff.
The OAS recommendation was startling. The electoral results were in line with what many polls had predicted. And they coincided with the parliamentary elections, held on the same day, in which the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS), Morales’s political party, had secured a majority in both houses of the assembly.
The OAS’s attack on the validity of the results relied almost exclusively on its focus on the “interruption”, on election night, of the quick count: the non-official count carried out by a private firm to give the media and the general public some preliminary information on the electoral results.
Incidentally, Bolivia’s electoral authorities had previously announced that the quick count would only include 80 percent of tally sheets. Given that it was halted at 83.85 percent, there were in fact no legal grounds on which to question this decision. But more importantly, the binding, official count, was never stopped. Yet, all around the world, newsrooms claimed, falsely, that the “vote-count” had been interrupted.
As for the OAS’s argument on the “change of trend”, this too was a serious mistake. A paper I have coauthored on the Bolivian elections clearly demonstrates that “the overall trends in the results (…) are easily explainable and consistent with the fact that later-reporting rural areas heavily favour the MAS”. There was, contrary to the OAS’s assertion, no “change of trend”, merely a steady, continuous increase in Morales’s lead throughout the vote-counting process; an easily projectable result for any statistician, which relied on the simple fact that later-reporting areas were more pro-Morales than earlier-reporting ones.
CommentsWe encourage anyone to comment, please consult the oD commenting guidelines if you have any questions.