Exit polls showed that Bolivian left-wing presidential hopeful Luis Arce, a candidate of the party of former President Evo Morales, won the presidency in the South American country with 52% of the vote.
Breaking tense silence, Morales announced Arce would be the next president of the nation, according to the Movement for Socialism (MAS) party's ballot-counting system.
The interim President Jeanine Áñez – an archrival of Morales – recognized that the socialist movement looked set to return to power in what looked to be a major jolt to South America's beleaguered left.
Arce, who oversaw a surge in growth and reduction in poverty as Morales' economy minister for more than a decade, would face an uphill battle trying to jumpstart growth this time.
Morales was barred from running in Sunday’s election, even for a seat in congress, and faces prosecution on what are seen as trumped-up charges of terrorism if he returns home. Few expect the sometimes-irascible politician to sit by idly in a future Arce government.
Bolivia, once one of the most politically volatile countries in Latin America, experienced a rare period of stability under Morales, the country’s first Indigenous president. He led Bolivia from 2006 until 2019 and was the last survivor of the so-called "pink wave" of leftist leaders that swept into power across South American during a commodities boom. Morales was deposed in what he calls a ''coup'' after he was denied a fourth term in the follow up of last year's election. Bolivia since then has been ruled by an interim government and the ex-president is in exile in Argentina.
The Trump administration, which celebrated Morales' departure as a watershed moment for democracy in Latin America, has been more cautious as Morales' handpicked successor surged in the polls. A senior State Department official this week said the U.S. is ready to work with whomever Bolivians select in a free and fair vote.