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From Bolivia, Lessons for a Successful Election

First, in the aftermath of the 2019 crisis and the mistrust it engendered in the electoral system, Bolivia worked to patch the failures and loopholes in its institutions and processes that had led to problems.

The country overhauled its electoral tribunal, previously filled with Morales loyalists. This was done with input from various stakeholders: The tribunal’s new president, Salvador Romero, was appointed by Ms. Añez, but only after a negotiation between members of the main parties.

Then, in the months leading up to the election, the tribunal undertook a wide-scale voter education campaign, including television, radio, newspaper and social media advertisements that sought to repair faith in the voting system by informing the public of changes.

The campaign assured Bolivians of the security of electoral materials, explained how to check registration and demonstrated Election Day safety measures meant to protect against the virus. A series of videos also promoted the idea of voting as a chance to unite the country.

“This generated trust,” said Naledi Lester, an expert working with The Carter Center, an election monitoring group, to assess the vote.

Second, the approach of the underdog candidate helped assure a smooth result. Mr. Mesa said repeatedly in the run-up to the election that he would accept the count even if he lost — and he conceded the day after the election, once it was clear, from exit polling data, that his opponent held a significant lead.

“There wasn’t violence in Bolivia,” said Fernanda Wanderley, who runs the socioeconomic institute at the Universidad Católica Boliviana, because Mr. Mesa and his followers lost, “and they accepted that they lost.”

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