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image captionThe election has already been postponed twice this year due to coronavirus concerns

Bolivians are voting in a presidential election following last year’s turmoil which ended the 13-year rule of left-wing President Evo Morales.

Mr Morales resigned and fled the country, having declared victory in a disputed vote subsequently annulled.

His Movement Towards Socialism (Mas) party candidate, Luis Arce, has been the consistent favourite to win.

The main challenger is former President Carlos Mesa, the centrist candidate of the Citizens’ Community alliance.

If neither of them succeeds in obtaining more than 50% of the votes or 40% with a 10-point lead over the nearest challenger, a run-off will be held on 29 November.

Sunday’s vote is on a new president, vice president and 166 members of congress.

The race has already been postponed twice due to coronavirus concerns, and political tensions are high

Who are the candidates?

Before running for president, Mr Arce served as economy minister under former President Morales.

As minister, he oversaw the nationalisation of Bolivia’s mining, gas and telecommunications industries. Mr Arce also helped to launch the Bank of the South, of a regional development fund for infrastructure and social development projects.

Presidential candidate Luis Arce speaks during a closing campaign rally ahead of the Bolivian presidential election, in El Alto, on the out

Reuters

Luis Arce

  • 57years old

  • 23years since he got am MSc in economics from Warwick Uni

  • 11years he served as finance minister under Evo Morales

  • 2months he spent abroad following Evo Morales’s resignation

Source: BBC Monitoring

Mr Mesa, his major rival, was president of Bolivia between 2003 and 2005. His rule was marred by internal tensions about ownership of the country’s vast gas resources.

Before his career in politics, Mr Mesa worked as a journalist and set up a television news production company, PAT, which he transformed into a national network.

The presidential candidate of the Bolivian Citizen Community party, Carlos Mesa

EPA

Carlos Mesa

  • 67years old

  • 14months he served as vice-president between 2002 and 2003

  • 19months he served as president after his predecessor resigned

  • 21number of books he has authored or co-authored

Source: BBC Monitoring

Why are tensions so high?

Days after Mr Morales announced his resignation last year, conservative Senator Jeanine Áñez took over as interim president.

She said her task would be to lead the country to an election re-run. But electoral authorities postponed the race until 3 May, then to 6 September and finally to 18 October as Bolivia grappled with a large coronavirus outbreak.

image copyrightGetty Images

image captionThere have been numerous anti-government protests since Ms Ánez took power

Mr Arce’s Mas party and other critics have accused the government of using the pandemic to try to hold on to power.

In September, Ms Áñez announced that she was bowing out of the presidential election, saying she did not want to split the vote and see Mas return to power.

Animosity has been building for months, and the United Nations has registered 46 incidents of violence during the election race. Several international groups, including the UN and Catholic Church, have called on all sides to avoid confrontation.

The interim government has alleged that Mas and allied groups are preparing violent acts if Mr Arce does not win, and said the armed forces were “ready” for any eventuality.

media captionWatch hundreds of indigenous Bolivians rally in support of Morales

Tensions have also flared after a last minute announcement by Bolivia’s electoral body, which said it would not release fast-count results on Sunday night, citing system issues.

Mr Acre has said the decision could “generate doubts” about the vote count’s legitimacy.

What about Evo Morales?

This will be the first presidential election since 2002 in which Mr Morales is not on the ballot. Violence and protests erupted in the country last year after he won an unconstitutional fourth term of office.

image copyrightGetty Images

image captionEvo Morales was Bolivia’s first indigenous leader

Evo Morales, 60, has been leading the Mas party’s campaign from exile in Argentina, supporting Mr Arce, and making his voice and opinions heard through media interviews and social media. He has portrayed the Áñez government as a right-wing “dictatorship”.

The former leader of the coca growers’ union still commands considerable support in Bolivia among its indigenous population and unions.

Mr Morales said in late September that, if Mr Arce won, he would return to the country “the next day”.

On Sunday, he appealed for the elect

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Pakistan blast: At least seven dead in Peshawar school attack

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At least seven people have died after an explosion during a class at a religious school in Pakistan, police have said.

Children of various age groups are among the dead, an officer at the scene told the BBC.

Dozens of others were injured in the attack, which took place in the northern city of Peshawar.

No group has yet claimed responsibility. An investigation has been launched.

The city of Peshawar, close to the Afghan border, has seen some of the worst of the violence during the Taliban insurgency in recent years.

Six years ago, gunmen stormed a military school in the city leaving more than 150 dead, including many children.

What happened?

The blast took place at about 08:30 local time (03:30 GMT), police told the BBC.

About 60 people are understood to have been in the class at the religious school, known as a madrassa.

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An eyewitness has told the police he saw a man enter the building with a bag of explosives shortly before the blast.

news agency that two teachers were injured.

Hospital officials told Reuters news agency that they had received dozens of injured, many with burns.

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Duterte seeks best Covid vaccine deal but ‘will not beg’ or allow private suppliers to rip off Philippines

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Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said he would pursue a direct government-to-government deal for a coronavirus vaccine with either China or Russia, warning that ‘corrupt’ private suppliers could try to swindle his country.

“Let me tell everybody that we will not beg, we will pay,” Duterte said in a televised address on Monday night, adding that while Manila is not seeking charity it also aims to sign a direct government-to-government deal without intermediaries.

The president did not indicate the status of vaccine negotiations with Beijing or Moscow, saying he merely mentioned the two countries as possible sources out of a “sense of urgency,” and that “all options” were still on the table. 

The one that could give us the best interest for the country will be chosen.

Duterte stressed the need to obtain an inoculation directly from a friendly foreign state, rather than a private business, warning that such transactions could only bring “trouble” and that a government deal would mean “no corruption.”




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Under its proposed national budget for 2021, Manila will devote some 2.5 billion Philippine pesos ($51.6 million) to vaccine procurement, which Duterte said would be overseen by Finance Secretary Carlos ‘Sonny’ Dominguez III.

“Since he is going to pay, I will listen to Sonny. If there are no funds, he will go to jail,” the president said, apparently threatening prison time for a member of his own cabinet.

Duterte previously torched Western pharma firms developing coronavirus immunizations, saying they were “all about profit,” pointing to some companies who asked for a “cash advance before they deliver the vaccine.” The leader gave a stern warning to any company who offered similar proposals, vowing “I’ll kick your a**.”

Though the president has offered to be the first in his country to take the jab developed in Russia, Sputnik V, it is not clear whether such an arrangement has been made. However, Moscow’s ambassador to the island nation, Igor Khovaev, recently stated the jab could be available to the Philippines by the end of the year.




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At least 7 killed, 70 wounded after bomb goes off at religious school in Pakistan – hospital official

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At least seven people were killed and more than 70 wounded in an explosion inside a seminary in northern Pakistan on Tuesday morning. Children are among the victims.

The blast took place in Peshawar, the capital of the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Senior police official Wagar Azim told AFP that a bomb brought inside the Speen Jammat mosque, which also functions as a religious school for local children, went off in the middle of Quran studi

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