Luis Arce, a former vice president and close ally of Evo Morales, won Bolivia’s presidential election by a landslide on Sunday, according to the Cuban-based Institute of Current Studies.
Mr. Arce garnered 2,885,842 votes (58.67 percent) to 2,113,841 votes (42.34 percent) for his opponent, Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada, the institute’s president, Alejandro Favela Melo, said. The news was first reported by Brazilian newspaper O Globo.
Mr. Arce, 59, is an economist who is not known for his electoral prowess. He has never served in office and was defeated in three previous gubernatorial bids.
He has been a part of the ruling government of President Evo Morales for more than a decade, promoting programs promoting coca growers and arguing that the leftist government is keeping the country from falling into the grip of neoliberalism. He was a minister in charge of transporting and distributing agricultural goods under the government of Mr. Morales’s predecessor, Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada.
Ricardo Marcelino, a professor of politics at Fundación Oscar Sol Arzobiz, said that “if you looked at the country at that time, it wasn’t that bad and it still isn’t.”
He added: “The government works, the struggle has been led by government and it’s been successful in reducing poverty and inequality.”
The people of Bolivia knew Mr. Arce, a father of four, and his family, when they were happy and before they were poor, Mr. Marcelino said.
“We believe in his capacity for commitment,” he said.
Though Mr. Marcelino said that he could not speak for other Bolivians, he said that he thought Mr. Arce might have been helped by the government’s strong campaign for increased labor rights. The fact that Mr. Arce was also a brother of one of the president’s daughters might have contributed to his popularity, he said.
Mr. Sánchez de Lozada, 53, was defeated in last year’s presidential vote when he upset the incumbent, Mr. Morales, who has been president since 2005 and widely known for his left-wing government. His opponents suggested during the campaign that Mr. Sánchez de Lozada had ties to drug traffickers and was too conservative for the country.
The country is conservative, he said.
“And so they were really worried about their defeat and felt like going back to the old politics, when poverty had taken over the country,” Mr. Sánchez de Lozada said.
Bolivia, one of the poorest countries in South America, has been a magnet for drug traffickers and has been one of the world’s largest coca growers for the past three decades.
Mr. Sánchez de Lozada has talked about overhauling programs that have led to poverty reduction, particularly those targeted to the farmers. He has also pledged to decrease coca cultivation by improving irrigation and other water and transportation infrastructure.
In the past, Mr. Arce has advocated integration with China. In recent years, he said, Bolivia should build links with Brazil’s growing economy.