Bolivian left faces setback in local elections: exit polls

Regional elections in La Paz

LA PAZ (Reuters) - Bolivia's leftist ruling party received an electoral setback on Sunday when exit polls showed it had lost the possibility of governing the most populated cities in the country.

In the midst of a second wave of coronavirus, the center-right won the mayoralties of La Paz, Santa Cruz, Cochabamba and El Alto, which account for about 70 percent of the Bolivian population. In all the country has 11.3 million inhabitants.

The ruling party's rivals won eight of the 10 main Bolivian cities and appeared set to take control of least four of the nine provincial governorships, according to survey data released by local television channels Unitel, Red Uno and Bolivision.

The left returned to power in Bolivia at the end of last year, when current president, Luis Arce, won the national election with a comfortable 55.1 percent. He was backed by former president Evo Morales.

But increasingly Bolivian voters are looking towards a new generation of politicians.

In the city of El Alto, long a bastion of socialism, Eva Copa, a former socialist party star who was pushed out of the party for being too moderate, was elected mayor, according to the exit polls.

"We have shown that we are a new alternative," she told reporters.

Election authorities have a week to announce the official results of Sunday's vote, which was marred by long delays at many polling stations where lines formed as people waited to cast their ballots.

(Reporting by Danny Ramos; writing by Hugh Bronstein; editing by Richard Pullin)