Bolivia's first indigenous President Evo Morales has lost his bid to seek a fourth consecutive term. The defeat in a referendum is the first poll setback for Morales since he became the president in 2006.
According to the Financial Times, 99.72% of votes have been counted and 51.3% of voters have rejected the referendum on constitutional changes that would have allowed Morales to contest another election in 2019. Also, following the plebiscite results, Vice-president Alvaro Garcia will not be able to run for elections again.
Sunday's (21 February) vote questioned "the liberal logic of rotation of leaders, which in Bolivia has never guaranteed us anything", leader of the ruling party Movement Towards Socialism and president of congress, Gabriela Montaño, said. However, opposition leader and a tycoon, Samuel Doria Medina, said: "Definitely, Bolivia won, they called a referendum and people told them no."
"Evo's [Morales] traditional opposition among the affluent and middle class was joined by a wide swath of voters who have long been a part of his political support," said Jim Shultz, executive director of the left-leaning Democracy Center political advocacy group.
"Their [voters] turnaround isn't about moving rightward," Shultz said. The voters decided to reject a referendum on constitutional changes because they believe "that 20 years is too long for one person to be president", he said.
A former Morales supporter, Tatiana Aranieba who "voted no" in the referendum said: "I support the progress we've made in Bolivia but I think the time is right for a change."
Morales has almost four more years before he vacates the presidency. Before the poll results were announced, Morales pledged to continue his efforts to transform the country. He accused the opposition of a "dirty war" against him on social media before the referendum.
"We're anti-neoliberal, anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist, we've been formed that way. This struggle will continue whether the yes or the no wins. It will never be abandoned," he had said.