Bolivia's left-wing presidential candidate Luis Arce ended campaigning on Wednesday ahead of Sunday's general election, with opinion polls showing him and centrist ex-president Carlos Mesa ahead in the race.
The rivals are expected to defeat four less-favored candidates comfortably and contest a run-off on November 29, with Mesa calling for the “definitive defeat” of exiled former leader Evo Morales’s socialist project.
Mesa, president from 2003-05, closed his campaign on Tuesday night in the wealthy eastern city of Santa Cruz, calling on voters to ensure Arce’s Movement for Socialism (MAS) does not return to power.
Mesa told hundreds of his Citizen Community Party’s supporters, who had gathered wearing face masks because of the pandemic, that Arce was “no different to Morales” and that he alone could defeat their socialist agenda.
“First of all, (we’re) a project for the future,” said the 67-year-old, dressed in his party’s orange colors.
Mesa closed his campaign in Santa Cruz rather than La Paz in an apparent bid to attract supporters of the right-wing candidate Luis Fernando Camacho.
The 41-year-old lawyer had led protests against Morales before the socialist leader resigned and fled the country last November following a controversial election victory.
Camacho, who has been running third in polls, ended his campaign on Wednesday in Santa Cruz with a vehicle caravan through the streets.
Arce ended his in El Alto, a satellite town overlooking La Paz that is a hotbed of MAS support.
The 57-year-old pointed to the economic bonanza Bolivia enjoyed during Morales’s 13-year reign, in which Arce was finance minister.