About the OAS and the Elections in Bolivia (CELAG)

The findings of the CEPR study on the elections in Bolivia allow us to affirm that the preliminary report of the OAS does not provide any evidence that could be definitive to prove the alleged “fraud.”

November 14, 2019

CELAG has carried out a detailed study of the OAS report “Analysis of Electoral Integrity General Elections in the Plurinational State of Bolivia October 20, 2019 – Preliminary Findings. Report to the General Secretariat” [1] based on own analysis and including the contributions of the document “What happened in the vote count of the 2019 elections in Bolivia? The role of the OAS Electoral Observation Mission” [2] , prepared by the Center for Economic And Policy Research (CEPR).

The findings of the analysis allow us to affirm that the preliminary report of the OAS does not provide any evidence that could be definitive to prove the alleged “fraud” referred to by the Secretary General, Luis Almagro, at the Permanent Council meeting held on November 12 [3]. On the contrary, instead of abiding by a technically based electoral audit, the OAS prepared a questionable report to induce a false deduction in public opinion: that the increase in the gap in favor of Evo Morales in the final leg of the count increased by fraudulent causes and not by the sociopolitical characteristics and dynamics of electoral behavior that occur between the rural and urban world in Bolivia.

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A background to consider is that on October 23, prior to the start of the audit requested by the Bolivian government and with the official calculation in progress, the Electoral Mission of the OAS issued a preliminary report in which it “recommended”, without any type of technical foundation, the realization of a second electoral round as the “best option” [4].

Next, the main conclusions:

  • On the analysis of the interruption of the TREP (Transmission of Preliminary Electoral Results). The OAS report fails to say that, as the CEPR report states, the usual practice, announced and agreed between the parties prior to the electoral process, included the commitment of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) to publish preliminary data obtained from of the TREP fast transmission system with a number of verified records of 80% of the total. At 7:40 p.m. on October 20, when the publication of results was halted, the data load had reached 83.85% of the verified records. As the same report points out, this performance of the TREP was similar in previous Bolivian electoral processes [5] .
  • The graphics of the OAS report on the TREP system do not reveal anything except what we already knew, that is, that the loading of records in the system was interrupted with 83.85% of the verified records, and then resumed. Meanwhile, the graphs on the ratio for / against Morales only support an obvious conclusion: that, in the areas loaded late at night – the rural areas – Morales’ support is far superior to those received in the charged areas first thing at night.
  • The OAS report also introduces arbitrary statements, without technical basis, by using the term “unusual” to characterize the behavior of trends in data loading: “In the last 5% of the calculation, 290,402 votes were counted. Of these, Morales won 175,670, that is 60.5% of the votes, while Mesa obtained only 69,199 votes, that is, 23.8%. In other words, in the last 5% of the vote, Morales increases the average vote by 15% compared to the previous 95%. ”It is not “unusual” that Morales had obtained support percentages around 60%, and even higher, in some areas of the country, and mainly in the rural areas of the two departments that were last loaded: Cochabamba and Oruro. See in this regard the results of the 2014 elections, in which in the rural towns the MAS obtained an average of 84% of the votes, or the 2016 elections in which 71% voted for Yes in the Referendum.
  • From a rigorous mathematical exercise it is fully possible that the projection of the results of the TREP at 100% would have resulted in a difference in favor of Morales over 10%, which is derived from the fact that the areas of greater electoral weight of the MAS were the ones that were less advanced in computing. Assuming that of 16.15% of the minutes that were lacking at the time of stopping the TREP, one third would have corresponded to urban areas, as the candidate Carlos Mesa argued, and two thirds would have corresponded to rural voting, and with the conservative hypothesis If Morales had obtained 60% support in these areas, the final result would have been 47.3% vs. 36.4%, that is, a difference of 10.9 points. This result is consistent with what was finally obtained from the official calculation.
  • As the projections made by the CEPR found:
    • “The legally binding official vote count did not stop for any significant period, and the trend in the results in the official count is very similar to the trend in the results of rapid transmission.”
    • “The results of the TREP are not difficult to justify or ‘unusual'”, as the OAS points out, but “the gap between Morales and Mesa widened constantly as the counting process progressed.”
  • “The partial results of the fast transmission until the moment of its interruption predict a result that is extremely close to the final results.”
  • It should be clarified that, although the OAS mainly focuses its audit on the TREP system, the only binding result under Bolivian legislation is that which emanates from the official vote count. The TREP system, implemented by the country from 2016 on the recommendation of the OAS itself, has a preliminary nature and does not provide official results. It is very striking that the report makes few and elusive allusions to the official calculation without any technical support that supports the claims it makes.
  • In turn, in a very rigorous manner, the OAS notes in its report that: “It is foreseeable to assume that if there were more time to process more documentation, an even greater number of irregularities would be found,” which cannot constitute in any way reliable demonstration of the existence of such irregularities.
  • On the analysis of an alleged falsification of signatures in the minutes of the official calculation. The few paragraphs in which the OAS report devotes to analyzing this point are based on a non-representative sample of the total minutes. Only 333 of the minutes (of 34,555) are observed, of which 78 (0.22% of the total) would have irregularities, which are not a random sample of the total but rather the opposite: they constitute a sample biased by their selection. As the report points out: “To form this sample, tables were selected in which the MAS obtained 99% of the votes and the consecutive tables, that is, those of the same voting center.” Any rigorous audit would have carried out a random sample of all the minutes in order to establish a statistically relevant conclusion.

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  • Finally, as the CEPR report reminds us, it is necessary to emphasize that there are other fully valid mechanisms in the Bolivian electoral system that acted throughout the process to guarantee the transparency of the elections:
    • 207,322 Bolivian citizens participated as voting juries in this election, at the rate of six for each polling station. All voting juries must sign the minutes of scrutiny at the end of it.
    • The delegates of the political parties participate in the scrutiny and endorse the calculation made in each of the 34,555 polling stations.
    • Finally: the images of the counting records are available online for anyone who wishes to confirm that the information on the physical counting sheets matches the information entered in the official computer system.


[1] http://www.oas.org/documents/spa/press/Informe-Auditoria-Bolivia-2019.pdf

[2] http://cepr.net/images/stories/reports/bolivia-elections-2019-11.pdf?v=2

[3] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KklG3V3PZTQ

[4] http://www.oas.org/fpdb/press/Informe-Preliminar—MOE-Bolivia-23-10-19.pdf

[5] (i) In the 2016 constitutional referendum, the TSE held a press conference at 6:15 p.m. of the day of the elections where it announced preliminary results with 81.2% of the minutes processed. (ii) On the occasion of the 2016 regional referendum, the TSE published preliminary results at 7:30 p.m. with a processing level of between 66.7 and 100% of the minutes according to each jurisdiction. (iii) In the 2017 judicial elections, preliminary results were announced at 9:30 p.m. with 80% of the minutes processed, endorsed at the time by the Mission of Electoral Experts of the OAS.


Translated by JRE/EF