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Bolivia's socialists claim victory in presidential election

Bolivia's socialist presidential candidate Luis Arce appears set to win the country's election without the need for a run-off. An unofficial count on Monday put the left-wing party of former president Evo Morales on the brink of a return to power.

The quick-count from pollster Ciesmori, released by Bolivian TV channel Unitel around midnight on Sunday, showed Arce had 52.4% of valid votes.

That put him more than 20 percentage points ahead of centrist rival Carlos Mesa, who served as president in the early 2000s.

A candidate needs 40% of the votes and a 10-point lead to win outright. The official count is coming in more slowly.

Arce, a former economy minister under Morales, sounded confident of victory without explicitly claiming the win at a press conference shortly after midnight in the Bolivian capital La Paz.

"As we have been saying, we are going to govern for all Bolivians. We are going to build a government of national unity. We are going to build unity in our country."

Morales, who handpicked Arce and has been closely advising the campaign, hailed victory for socialism at a press conference in neighboring Argentina, where he has lived since being ousted from power last year.

"All data that is known so far indicates that there has been a victory for the Movement Towards Socialism (party), which is a political instrument for the sovereignty of the people… We have recovered the homeland, we will recover stability and progress, we will recover peace, faithful to the inheritance of our ancestors."

Jeanine Anez, the conservative interim president who took over in a power vacuum last year, said that it appeared Arce was the election winner and she offered her congratulations.

Sunday's poll was regarded as a test of democracy in the Andean nation.Last year's election was annulled after allegations of vote rigging, which sparked bloody protests and led to Morales quitting after almost 14 years in power.