Bolivia approves schedule for delayed general election

Bolivia's Supreme Court President Salvador Romero had urged interim President Jeanine Anez to sign into law a bill setting a fixed election date in September

Bolivia's Supreme Court on Friday issued a schedule for the country's delayed general election, including a date for an eventual second-round presidential run-off.

Bolivians had been due to head to the polls in May to elect a successor to Evo Morales, the former president who resigned in November and fled the country into exile.

Last week, interim President Jeanine Anez signed into law a bill confirming September 6 as the election date.

And the country's top court has now said any second round run-off would be staged on October 18 with the transfer of power to a permanent president in November.

To win outright in September's vote, presidential candidates need at least 40 percent of the vote plus a 10 point lead over the nearest challenger, otherwise the top two candidates will head to a second round.

The court said that by publishing the program it aimed to "guarantee" the elections would take pace, albeit "with the appropriate public health protection measures" given the coronavirus pandemic.

Anez had wanted to delay the election, claiming Bolivia will be in the middle of its health crisis in September. But after coming under fire with accusations she was trying to unlawfully hold on to power, the conservative politician relented and signed the bill into law.

With 16.9 percent, Anez was trailing in third place in the most recent election opinion poll, behind centrist former president Carlos Mesa (18.3) and runaway leader Luis Arce (33.3), from Morales's Movement for Socialism party.

Morales fled the country after three weeks of protests over his controversial re-election in October in a poll he was constitutionally barred from standing in.

He had tried to hold on to power but lost the backing of the country's military after an Organization of American States audit found clear evidence of election fraud.

Morales is currently living in exile in Argentina and is barred from standing in the general election, even as a legislator.

The coronavirus pandemic has infected more than 28,000 Bolivians, leaving over 900 dead, in a country of 11.5 million.