A general strike began on Wednesday in Bolivia to protest election results signaling long-time President Evo Morales will likely secure another term.

Riot police use pepper spray on a supporter of Bolivia's main opposition presidential candidate Carlos Mesa Riot police use pepper spray on a supporter of Bolivia's main opposition presidential candidate Carlos Mesa Photo: AFP / JORGE BERNAL

Rival election delegates in Bolivia shout slogans at each other in vote count headquarters Rival election delegates in Bolivia shout slogans at each other in vote count headquarters Photo: AFP / JORGE BERNAL

With more than 95 percent of the vote counted, Morales had 46.4 percent compared to 37 percent for his main rival, centrist Carlos Mesa, just shy of the 10 point lead necessary to avoid a runoff.

Supporters of rival Bolivia presidential candidates are separated by security forces as they gather outside the hotel where the Supreme Electoral Tribunal has its headquarters to count the election votes, in La Paz, on October 21, 2019 Supporters of rival Bolivia presidential candidates are separated by security forces as they gather outside the hotel where the Supreme Electoral Tribunal has its headquarters to count the election votes, in La Paz, on October 21, 2019 Photo: AFP / JORGE BERNAL

In Bolivia's southern city of Sucre an angry mob set a local electoral authority's headquarters on fire, after the main opposition candidate rejected presidential election results In Bolivia's southern city of Sucre an angry mob set a local electoral authority's headquarters on fire, after the main opposition candidate rejected presidential election results Photo: AFP / JOSE LUIS RODRIGUEZ

Opposition supporters reacted with fury on Monday to delayed results that showed Morales, Latin America's longest-serving president, edging towards the 10 percentage-point margin.

Carlos Mesa, the main opposition candidate to Bolivia's Evo Morales, has denounced revised presidential election results Carlos Mesa, the main opposition candidate to Bolivia's Evo Morales, has denounced revised presidential election results Photo: AFP / Pedro UGARTE

That flew in the face of preliminary results released earlier that showed Mesa coming in a close second in Sunday's polls and forcing a run-off.

Supporters of Bolivia's main opposition presidential candidate have held protests outside key election count centers Supporters of Bolivia's main opposition presidential candidate have held protests outside key election count centers Photo: AFP / JORGE BERNAL

Evo Morales, Latin America's longest-serving president, has come under severe criticism this year Evo Morales, Latin America's longest-serving president, has come under severe criticism this year Photo: AFP / Aizar RALDES

Monitors from the Organization of American States said the delayed results showed a "drastic and hard-to-explain change in the trend of the preliminary results" that "clearly indicated a second round."

Revised results in Bolivia's presidential election, released after a long and unexplained delay, showed Morales edging towards an outright victory with 95 percent of the votes counted Revised results in Bolivia's presidential election, released after a long and unexplained delay, showed Morales edging towards an outright victory with 95 percent of the votes counted Photo: AFP / Aizar RALDES

Mesa, a 66-year-old former president, said he would reject the result.

Opposition supporters in Bolivia's presidential election reacted with fury to the results, torching electoral offices in southwestern cities Opposition supporters in Bolivia's presidential election reacted with fury to the results, torching electoral offices in southwestern cities Photo: AFP / JOSE LUIS RODRIGUEZ

Vote count ongoing

The slow official vote count continued overnight from Tuesday to Wednesday.

Bolivia braced for a general strike on Tuesday hours after violence broke out in several cities when the main opposition candidate rejected presidential election results Bolivia braced for a general strike on Tuesday hours after violence broke out in several cities when the main opposition candidate rejected presidential election results Photo: AFP / Aizar RALDES

Evo Morales, Latin America's longest-serving president, is controversially seeking a fourth term Evo Morales, Latin America's longest-serving president, is controversially seeking a fourth term Photo: AFP / JORGE BERNAL

The government on Tuesday asked the OAS to conduct an audit of the vote counting process as soon as possible.

Photo: AFPTV / Jaime ESQUIVEL

An audit could help determine whether votes were counted accurately and whether proper procedures were followed.

Firefighters survey the wreckage of the electoral authority headquarters in the southern city of Sucre after poll results that appeared to hand victory to incumbent president Evo Morales sparked riots Firefighters survey the wreckage of the electoral authority headquarters in the southern city of Sucre after poll results that appeared to hand victory to incumbent president Evo Morales sparked riots Photo: AFP / Jose Luis Rodriguez

A health worker is surrounded by security forces as she protests outside the headquarters of the election authority in Bolivia's capital La Paz A health worker is surrounded by security forces as she protests outside the headquarters of the election authority in Bolivia's capital La Paz Photo: AFP / JORGE BERNAL

Internal divisions within the Supreme Electoral Tribunal became apparent late Tuesday when the body's vice-president announced his resignation.

A firefighter rests outside a Bolivian electoral authority building in Sucre set ablaze by opposition protesters late Monday A firefighter rests outside a Bolivian electoral authority building in Sucre set ablaze by opposition protesters late Monday Photo: AFP / Jose Luis Rodriguez

In a letter, Antonio Costa -- a veteran of the electoral court -- condemned what he called the body's mismanagement of the election count and its "foolish" decision to temporarily suspend the count on Sunday night.

A burned car outside an electoral office in Sucre after rioting in the city on Monday A burned car outside an electoral office in Sucre after rioting in the city on Monday Photo: AFP / Jose Luis Rodriguez

Health workers demonstrate outside the headquarters of Supreme Electoral Tribunal as counting continued in Bolivia's presidential elections Health workers demonstrate outside the headquarters of Supreme Electoral Tribunal as counting continued in Bolivia's presidential elections Photo: AFP / JORGE BERNAL

Representatives of civil society organizations from Bolivia's six regions backed a call to extend a strike originally set for Tuesday in the country's largest city Santa Cruz.

A supporter of Bolivia's presidential candidate Carlos Mesa in front of riot police during a protest over the disputed vote count A supporter of Bolivia's presidential candidate Carlos Mesa in front of riot police during a protest over the disputed vote count Photo: AFP / JORGE BERNAL

The general strike came into effect at midnight Tuesday (0300 GMT) and will "continue until democracy and the will of the citizens are respected," the organizations said.

People hold a protest following the election results in Sucre, Bolivia People hold a protest following the election results in Sucre, Bolivia Photo: AFP / Jose Luis Rodriguez

Pro-Morales protests

Meanwhile, an umbrella organization of pro-Morales labor and farmers' unions, CONALCAM, called on its members to defend the official results.

Supporters of Bolivia's presidential candidate Carlos Mesa are dispersed with tear gas by riot police Supporters of Bolivia's presidential candidate Carlos Mesa are dispersed with tear gas by riot police Photo: AFP / JORGE BERNAL

"We will go out on the streets and on the roads to firmly defend democracy and the votes of Bolivians," said the leader of the main union, Juan Carlos Guarachi, after a meeting with Morales.

Monday's sudden change in the election count sparked rioting in several cities.

Mobs torched electoral offices in Sucre and Potosi, while rival supporters clashed in the capital La Paz.

Long lines formed at gas stations amid fears of shortages.

Health workers, on strike for the past month, demonstrated outside the electoral authority headquarters on Tuesday.

Mesa, who served as president from 2001 to 2005, accused Morales of colluding with the Supreme Electoral Tribunal to tweak results and avoid a run-off.

The top US diplomat in the region, Michael Kozak, called on the election authorities to "to immediately act to restore credibility in the vote counting process."

Spain, Argentina, Brazil and Colombia also voiced concern.

Longest-serving president

Morales, Latin America's longest-serving president, is controversially seeking a fourth term.

He obtained Constitutional Court permission in 2017 to run again for president after he ignored the result a 2016 referendum.

The former coca farmer and leftist union leader has led the poor but resource-rich Latin American country for the past 13 years, though his popularity has waned amid allegations of corruption and authoritarianism.

He has led the country since taking office in 2006, when he became its first indigenous president.

A new mandate would keep him in power until 2025.

As leader of his Movement for Socialism Party, Morales points to a decade of economic stability and considerable industrialization as his achievements, while insisting he has brought "dignity" to Bolivia's indigenous population, the largest in Latin America.