About 7.1 million people will visit polling stations across the country for compulsory voting on Sunday.
Bolivians vote in municipal and regional elections on Sunday amid a growing COVID-19 pandemic that has stretched the country’s healthcare system.
“After restoring democracy in 2020, it is now up to us to elect our territorial representatives,” President Luis Arce tweeted shortly after the polls opened at 8 a.m. local time (12 p.m. GMT).
“Bolivia is a democratic model in a pandemic,” he said.
About 7.1 million people will go to polling stations across the country for the compulsory vote to elect nine governors and 336 mayors, as well as their respective members of the regional assembly and city councilors.
Bolivia has reported more than 253,000 cases of COVID-19 and more than 11,800 coronavirus-related deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, while healthcare workers went on strike last month to demand more stringent public health measures.
The president of the country’s electoral authority, Salvador Romero, hailed Bolivia’s efforts to hold two national elections amid the pandemic.
The vote comes just months after Arce of former Bolivian President Evo Morales’s MAS party won the Bolivian presidential elections in October of last year.
It won 55% of the vote, avoiding a possible second round, while the MAS also won majorities in both houses of Congress.
“Now our big challenge is to rebuild our homeland in peace, to find joy, stability and hope for a better future for all Bolivians,” Arce said on social media after the results were announced. .
“We will not let go of the trust people place in us.”
According to recent polls, MAS candidates face challenges in municipal competitions in parts of La Paz, El Alto, Cochabamba and Santa Cruz.
The same polls predicted that the political opposition would be favored to win the governorship in the Santa Cruz region, would be in a tight race for governor in La Paz and fail in Cochabamba.
Daniel Schweimler of Al Jazeera, who reports from Argentina, said the pandemic was the central issue in the minds of voters ahead of the election.
“The pandemic has highlighted the issues that most concern Bolivian voters,” Schweimler said, referring to health and economic issues.