Leftist candidate Luis Arce has a clear lead going into the final weeks of campaigning for next month's presidential election in Bolivia, a national opinion poll released Wednesday showed.
Former economy minister Arce has 29.2 percent of voter preferences, well ahead of his nearest rival, former president Carlos Mesa, who polled at 19 percent in the Catholic Jubilee foundation poll with a network of universities.
Arce was hand-picked by exiled ex-president Evo Morales to lead his Movement for Socialism (MAS) party's challenge to win back the presidency in twice-delayed October 18 elections.
Bolivians will go to the polls a year after Morales's controversial victory in the last election triggered mass protests over allegations of vote rigging.
The 60-year-old indigenous leader, who had led the South American country uninterrupted since 2006, resigned and was forced to flee to Mexico.
Interim president Jeanine Áñez – a conservative former senator who took over after Morales and several top ministers fled – is in fourth place in the polls at just seven percent, amid criticism of her handling of the coronavirus epidemic.
An influential right-wing regional leader, Luis Fernando Camacho, is running in third place with 10.4 percent, according to the polls.
Human Rights Watch has accused the Áñez government of using the country's justice system to persecute Morales's allies.
The government categorically rejected the allegations, made in a HRW report last week.
Morales, currently in exile in Buenos Aires, recently appealed to the constitutional court in La Paz to overturn the electoral commission's decision to ban him from running in the elections.
Morales wants to run as a senate candidate for the central region of Cochabamba, where he emerged as a political leader decades ago. But a judge ruled against his eligibility last week.
The vote will go to a second round run-off on November 29 if no candidate obtains 50 percent in the first round.