July 26, 2005

A Brief Vacation

MABB © ®

Just to let readers know I will be out of town until early next week. I'll try to get online but all depends on the availability of time and hardware.

Greetings everybody,
Until then!

July 23, 2005

On the Way to Elections in December

MABB © ®

The political parties are in full swing in preparation for the oncoming December 4th elections. In fact some of them have even come out stronger than anticipated.

More or less, the established parties are in the process of defining their candidates and their campaigns. Some issues floating around are campaign finance (some parties want to stop government finance for political campaigns) and the respect of the first majority (this was thrown into the ring by Tuto Quiroga). However we should not expect something definite in the near future. As I said, they are topics being discussed as I write this post.

What is important to highlight is what the parties themselve are doing. Most of them have set dates for their national conventions where they will decide who will be the candidates for president, vice-president, senators and deputies. Additionally, the parties want to define their strategies. Following there is a brief description of plans and primary strategies of some parties.

MAS

The MAS party will hold its national convention, although they call it assembly, on July 30 and 31.

Among their proposed strategies are:

- To work on establising alliances with other political parties
- To broaden their appeal to the middle class
- To establish international relations with other Latin American countries and the EU and Asia.

One part of MAS' strategy is to go after Tuto Quiroga. MAS has filed a demand against Quiroga with the courts. The party argues that Quiroga should be tried for acting against the country while he was president. Allegedly, Quiroga signed four shared-risk contracts with energy companies and did not send the contracts to Congress to be approved.

MNR

The MNR is to hold its national convention on August 11th. However, the party is in deep crisis due to an internal split of factions. These factions are, on the one side loyal followers of Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada (who is the current leader and boss of the party) of which included are the current leadership. On the other side, there are the people following Juan Carlos Gumucio, who thinks the MNR needs a change in leadership. Thus, there is not much time for strategy for this party.

MIR

MIR has said it will hold its national convention on August 10. The party was also in a crisis, but it seems to be coming out of it. The agenda for the conventions is as follows:

- To determine who the candidates will be
- To think about alliance scenarios
- To fix the problem with Potosi

The party has made two important decisions, as far as I can see. One is, the current leader Jaime Paz Zamora, has understood the need for change in leadership and thus he is stepping aside to make space and instead he will be seeking the prefecture of Tarija. The other one is that it seems the next presidential candidate will be Hormando Vaca Diez. This will have to be decided on August 10. But, along with the elections of Vaca Diez as the presidential candidate, come many problems that have to be thought out. First, there is a faction of MIR, namely that of Potosi, who have said they will not support a Vaca Diez candidacy. Second, strategically, it may prove to be challenging. The party is seeking to broaden its national support, thus some people think that by choosing Vaca Diez, they will gain more support in Eastern Bolivia (Santa Cruz, to be more exact). However, the same choice will for sure rest significant support from the Western side of the country. So, some in the party are aguing to choose a vice-president from the Altiplano. This can potentially be optimal for MIR.

As expected, there are many issues to be resolved before even getting started. The elections are some five months away and, in my opinion, there is not much time. What I like to see though, is the process to move along the way it is doing.

July 21, 2005

Evo's Chances: Another Perspective (more)

Lately there has been much undeserved speculation as to what were the chances that Evo Morales Aima, leader of the leftist Movement Towards Socialism (MAS), would be elected the next president of Bolivia, next December 4th. This topic has been hotly talked about within the Bolivian blogsphere as well as the main stream media (MSM). Fellow bloggers like Barrio Flores, boz, and blog from Bolivia, have analyzed Evo's chances. Numerous articles in the MSM keep analyzing and speculating whether Evo has any chances (here, here). What is more, even the US government has recently weighed on the issue by stating they would continue working with any government emerging from the December 2005 elections. Yes, even if it were Evo Morales.

However, what are the real chances of Evo Morales to become the next president-elect of Bolivia? According to my analysis of the numbers, his chances are not very good.


A look back at the 2002 elections


The argument is, after the 2002 general elections, Evo Morales became the primary candidate for the next elections and many people gave his result numbers high marks on his viability to become president. If we look at the graph, we can see that Evo and his party (MAS) got a solid 21% of the national vote. That is very impressive for an indigenous leader of the coca growers union and worth mentioning it. Nevertheless, looking at the graph a few minutes longer, we can observe that there are three parties with the same amount of votes, more or less. There is an indisputable group of leading political forces emerging from the 2002 vote. First is the MNR, second the MAS and a third political force is the NFR. Moreover, we find another significant political actor, the MIR, within a few percentage points behind.

From this we can conclude that, clearly, MAS has pulled a feat by showing such a support on the ballot box. Who would have thought that of a newcomer. But, let's not forget that MAS is within a group of three other political parties, each of which has also significant support within the population. To conclude from that, that MAS has an advantage for the next elections would be insensitive. :-)



The distribution of power in government




From the graphs above, we can discern the distribution of power which resulted from the 2002 general elections. In a manner which speaks volumes of the Bolivian democratic process, the distribution of power closely reflects the results of the elections. The parties which got the most votes are the ones who have the most representation within both chambers of Congress.

The MAS, has been, ever since 2002, the main opposition force in Congress. However, as we can see, it has not been able to make much of a mark. MAS has controlled 27 of the 130 seats in the Chamber of Deputies and 8 of the 27 seats in the Senate. These numbers are not enough to exert any significant influence in Congress. MAS has therefore been largely marginalized because its political line has not coincided with that of the other players. The only alternative left to it, at least based on its actions, has been to incite protest on the streets.

The Movement Towards Socialism has therefore shown itself as one of the major political forces in Bolivian politics. What it hasn't shown is either its ability to make that leap from a strong alternative party to a strong leading party and its ability to form alliances with other forces. This last characteristic is indispensable if MAS is to get to the presidency.



The uninominal vote as a yard stick


According to the Bolivian Constitution, there are two approaches to electing representatives to the lower chamber of Congress. One is that of plurinominales and the other is that of uninominales. Deputies elected by the plurinominal method are included in the party lists. Deputies elected by the uninominal method are electec by direct vote.

The later method is interesting because, in my opinion, it provides for a representative image of the voting preferences of the electorate. Since these Deputies are elected by direct vote, one can assume this is a small poll on what is the general preference in each voting district.


Observing this graph I created from the data on the official results, we can clearly discover some geographic political preferences. For example we can see that Santa Cruz is MNR country. Personally, I was under the impression that the MIR had much support in this region. Moreover, it is also clear that the MNR has wide support in the other two eastern departamentos, Pando and Beni. We can also see the remnants of ADN in Pando. Another interesting thing to observe is what happens in La Paz. In this departamento we can find a diversity of political currents, with two parties capturing the most support. MIR has the upper hand, and here I speculate that this support is in the city of La Paz where most of the middle class lives. By contrast the MIP (Felipe Quispe) has a firm grip on the Altiplano Aymaras. What is also interesting is to see the size of that electorate. Of course we also see that Tarija, not surprisingly, is MIR country. This is due to the fact that its leader, Jaime Paz Zamora is a Tarijeno.

As for the issue at hand, from the graphic we can see that MAS has support in the departamentos of Cochabamba, Potosi, Oruro, La Paz and Sucre (in descending order). Support for MAS is stronger in Cochabamba, where it emerged as a political force and Potosi. Surprisingly, support for MAS in La Paz is only marginal. People wrongly tend to automatically attribute all the activity in the city of El Alto to Evo Morales. Now we can clearly see that while there is some common ground between the activists in El Alto and Evo, that doesn't mean that Evo enjoys wide support by Altenos. It is also worth highlighting the lack of support for MAS in the Eastern regions, Santa Cruz, Beni and Pando plus Tarija. This is the so called Media Luna (for its resemblance to a half moon) region, which is currently pushing the autonomic movement.

The emergence of Evo Morales and his indigenous political instrument, MAS, have shown us the deep changes which Bolivian politics are going through. The fact that Evo got so close to become the President of Bolivia in 2002 made most of us realize that these changes are not temporary. Nonetheless, Evo might have gotten as close as to have been included in the negotiations in Congress (where it is usually decided who will be the winner of the elections), but he didn't even come close to becoming president.

Evo Morales and his party, MAS, represent a new true left alternative to the traditional political parties, but it is far from being the instrument of the indigenous people to gain power. The significant lack of support in the Altiplano region is more than enough to show that MAS and Evo have a lot of work to do before they can even start thinking of gaining the presidency. Even the polls are suggesting he is one more candidate among the leading three. In the mean time, Evo has to learn to compromise and thus become part of main stream politics in Bolivia.

July 15, 2005

Bolivia-Chile Relations

MABB © ®

The relations between Bolivia and Chile are defined around several points:

  • Access to the Pacific coast for Bolivia
  • Access to the water of the river Silala
  • Free access for Bolivian export products in the port of Iquique
  • The demining of the Bolivian-Chilean border (by the Chilean military)
  • The proposed natural gas ring
  • A proposal by Chile to eliminate the use of passports to enter or exit both countries

The stone blocking the further development of what otherwise (in my opinion) would be a very fruitful relationship is the first point, i.e. free and sovereign access to the pacific coast for Bolivia.

Bolivia and Chile have been hanging on this point for ever. On the one side, Bolivians see this issue in terms of natural rights whereby Bolivia being born with a coast line to the Pacific and due to an unjust war of agression it was lost. Almost every Bolivian government has made this demand an official policy. There is overwhelming support for this policy and it seems that it is expected by the population. On the other side, the Chilean government has replied and still replies with the 1904 treaty signed between the three countries involved in the war, Bolivia, Chile and Peru. The official policy coming from Santiago is that the treaty cannot be altered because doing so would be a violation of international law.

What is interesting though, are recent developments on this issue. First, we have a stronger stance from the part of Bolivia, which is intent on brigning the issue on the table. There is almost an air of intransigence when it comes to the Bolivian diplomacy "forcing" the issue in every encounter with their Chilean counterparts and also in every international venue they can use. A second development is the need for energy from the part of Chile and recent discoveries of huge natural gas deposits in Bolivia. This has had an effect of placing Bolivia in a stronger possition to negotiate. Simply because Chile is in almost desperate need of energy and, whether it likes it or not, it is geographically dependent from Bolivian natural gas. Bolivia is the place where it would make most sense to import energy for Chile.

A third and last development is, I think, more a result of the first and the second developments. Chile is in an election year. It is set to hold presidential elections on December 11, 2005. Five months into the elections, there is already a clear winner, her name is Micelle Bachelet from the government alliance. According to the latest polls, Bachelet is the favorite candidate with a commanding lead of 47% over her immediate opponents, Juaquin Lavin with 22% and Sebastian Pinera with 16%. This commanding lead is apparently due to her perceived competence and the excelent approval for her alliance which is the current government led by the equally highly approved Ricardo Lagos. Bechelet however, has indicated that she is willing to enter in serious talks with Bolivia over the sea access issue. And what is more impressive and encouraging for Bolivians is the fact that people in Chile support this move by Bechelet.

If Bechelet is able to capitalize on her lead until December (her goal is to have only one round of elections), she might become the first woman president of Chile and the person who will be able to settle once and for all this issue between Chile and Bolivia. Bolivians should be observing keenly what happens this December in Chile.

July 14, 2005

Justicia Comunitaria: A Worrisome Trend

MABB © ®
A worrisome trend developing (perhaps just being discovered) in Bolivia is that of the Communal Justice or Justicia Comunitaria. But what is it that we or I mean with communal justice? Well, a quick search for the definition resulted in zero outcomes. No definition. What I mean with communal justice is that a community decides to take justice on its own hands, i.e. it judges, sentences and carries out the sentece given to an alleged criminal (as someone who brakes the law) on its own. This is carried out without the intervention of the justice system.

More specifically and clearly, one can observe the very definiton of communal justice on the real life examples that several Bolivian communities present us with. For example, in recent weeks a 34 and 20 year old men were hanged and then burned by the people living in the community of Arbieto, Cochabamba. The two men were caught braking the law and immediately the population executed them, without waiting for the police to arrive. In another case in Pucara, Cochabamba, three people were also caught by the people from the community, sprayed gas and then lit up. Had not the police arrived soon, the three would be dead by now. One of them is seriously burned.

Aparently, in Cochabamba alone, there have been seven murders by communal justice in the last seven months. In the last six months, police has attended 21 cases of lynchings (a.k.a. communal justice). But this is not happening in Cochabamba alone. La Paz and Santa Cruz have also their own examples to cite. However, the small communities far away from the urban centers are the most succeptible to make use of this form of "justice".

This might be a signaling that Bolivian justice is far from reaching every corner of the country and in the process, protect every Bolivian citizens' rights. One reason justice is not reaching everybody in the country is because small communities in the country side do usually have a local police. Communities in the Altiplano have to wait for police to arrive from La Paz. These communities feel isolated and very often vulnerable to local criminals. Another problem might be corruption. Time and time again there are reports in the newspapers of police officers involved in crimes themselves. Also, there is a need to revamp the penal code. Just the other day I was reading about a taxi driver who, in complicity with police officers, robbed tourists. This man was cought by the police and released after two days. This happens routinely.

The lack of respect for the law and the human rights for the individuals in these small communities is alarming. The level of corruption within the justice organizations is also alarming. The need for reform of the penal code is necessary. However, as long as Bolivia keeps going through this power struggle it has been going through, as long these radical groups in El Alto keep blocking roads and as long the political elite doesn't get it toghether, justice will be hard to come by.

July 12, 2005

Flicker: A Repository of Images of Bolivia

MABB © ®
In tha last six months, Flickr has become a treasure box for any one who wants to experience Bolivia's nature, society, politics, idiosyncracies, culture, etc., etc., etc.

With the use of tags, Flickr, the online photo sharing website, has made it easier for anybody interested in Bolivia to be able to either share or just take a look at images from people who keep their images in Flickr.

I you want to just take a look how Bolivia looks before taking a wild leap and going there, you just have to visit Flickr's Bolivia tag and browse through a gigantic selection of images that show many aspects of Bolivia.

I have been amazed yesterday with some pictures of the tropics. It took me right back to a trip me and my highschool class made to the tropics north of La Paz to help open roads to connect many isolated villages around there.

The images are amazing! Take a look.

July 11, 2005

The Process Moves Along

MABB © ®

The process is moving right along. That is what can be said about Bolivia's efforts to get out of the political and social crisis it went through in the last few months. Congress has finally made way for the general elections and the elections for prefects to carry on. It also has set a date when the autonomic referendum and the elections for constituents are supposed to happen. These decisions address the demands of the social groups whos protests brought the country into a deep crisis.

As mentioned in an earlier post, the general elections and elections for prefects are supposed to be held on the second Sunday of December 2005. This was a historical decision, not just because deep divisions between the traditional parties had to be put aside to come to an agreement, but because those bitter divisions were able to be overcome due to the tremendous pressure the Congress was under steming from the protesting social sectors. In a way, the events of June 10, when a majority of congressmen and congresswomen went through a traumatic siege in Sucre and, according to some accounts, they felt their livelyhoods were seriously being threatened by the protestors, were a decisive factor to "influence" their decisions. Perhaps those events proved to be a sort of reality check for Congress. As a result, the traditional parties, including anti-systemic parties like MAS, were "helped" to reach decisions which will move the process further.

A particular problem was that of the elections of prefects. This problem placed a serious test on the constitutionality of the actions of the government. Former President Mesa, in a desperate attempt to save his presidency, called for prefect elections on August 12 by issuing a presidential decree. The legality of this decree however was called into serious question. According to the constitution, there was not provision for the elections of prefects. In fact, these were supposed to be appointed by the executive. However, now since the Constitution was amended (article 109) to allow for the election of prefects, the new laws passed become legal and constitutional. So the date for the prefect elections becomes December 11th.

Interestingly enough, the process for the prefect elections has been going on inspite all the problems on the table. The Electoral Court (CNE) has reported there are currently 38 eligible candidates, of which, Sucre, La Paz, Oruro and Tarija have each 4, Cochabamba and Santa Cruz each have 5, Potosi has 6 and Beni and Pando each have 3 candidates.

On the other sensitive topic of the autonomic referendum, the Santa Cruz Civic Committee and the Provisional Autonomic Assembly (the body in charge of carrying out the referendum in case the government did not do it) expressed their acceptance of the decision. That is, they will stop their actions an will wait for next year's referendum planned on July. This decision gives the government more room to breath and addresses one of the sources of division, not just in Congress, but throughout the nation.

One last aspect of the recent decisions of Congress is the holding of general elections. This will symbolize, at least, the total renewal of the political class. Now, that total renewal will take place, I doubt it very much. I would say with a certain degree of confidence that the same politicians will come back. However, what I wanted to highlight is the fact that the term of service of the current Congress is being abruptly shortened. It should have ended on 2007, but now it will end two years earlier. That is a little particular to me, because after all these people were elected.

Nonetheless, the process is moving along. The general elections are happening on December and the political parties as well as other social and civic organizations are getting ready to participate. Congress is tackling issue after issue (surprisingly) moving along. The executive is intent on fulfilling its task, i.e. carry out general elections. If things keep going this way, Bolivia might just come out of this crisis a bit more stable.

Note: There was a bit of confusion about the date of the elections, but according to the Electoral Court's official dates, the elections will be held on December 4th and not the 11th as I wrote before.

July 08, 2005

Reflexions on Gas and China

MABB © ®

It is a fact that in the near future natural gas (NG) will become an important source of energy in the world, as the world seeks to make itself less dependent on oil.

A "few" facts highlighting this trend can be found in the October 2004 World Energy Outlook Report from the IEA. I just take some significant facts from this extensive report on world energy.

For example, a prognosis for 2030 of NG demand in the world looks astounding. For North America, NG use will rise 45%, while in Europe it will rise 64%, also in Russia it will rise 50% and more strikingly in Asia it will rise 220%.

This should have a direct impact in Bolivia, whether Bolivians want it or not. The world's appetite for NG is insatiable and will devour anything it remotely resembles NG. Natural Gas is the preferred form of energy in the developed world and, as we've just seen, it is likely to remain "the preferred" form of energy.

Which takes me to my second point. As we have seen, Asia will demand a major part of the world's NG resources. China alone is expected to drive that demand. That is why the international relations between China and Latin America are seeing an increase in activity like never before. The Chinese government is courting Latin American government like Chile, Venezuela and Brazil to increase their relations. China has even been to Bolivia offering huge amounts of investments in oder to secure much needed resources.

However, the Chinese-Latin American relations has one simple dimension, i.e. resources. The Chinese need resources to keep growing and Latin America has them in plentiful quantities.

All this matters for Bolivia because, as we already know, it has the second largest proven natural gas deposits in Latin America. That means, NG is there, in the middle of Bolivia's affairs, at least for the next 50 years. The challenge is whether Bolivians can take this opportunity and use their resources to achieve development.

Here is an Article I Think it Speaks for Myself

MABB © ®

This is the reproduction of an article I think speaks for myself in a more eloquent manner, on an issue I am interested but much less prone to write about. Enjoy!



New York Times, July 8, 2005

If It's a Muslim Problem, It Needs a Muslim Solution

Yesterday's bombings in downtown London are profoundly disturbing. In part, that is because a bombing in our mother country and closest ally, England, is almost like a bombing in our own country. In part, it's because one assault may have involved a suicide bomber, bringing this terrible jihadist weapon into the heart of a major Western capital. That would be deeply troubling because open societies depend on trust - on trusting that the person sitting next to you on the bus or subway is not wearing dynamite.

The attacks are also deeply disturbing because when jihadist bombers take their madness into the heart of our open societies, our societies are never again quite as open. Indeed, we all just lost a little freedom yesterday.

But maybe the most important aspect of the London bombings is this: When jihadist-style bombings happen in Riyadh, that is a Muslim-Muslim problem. That is a police problem for Saudi Arabia. But when Al-Qaeda-like bombings come to the London Underground, that becomes a civilizational problem. Every Muslim living in a Western society suddenly becomes a suspect, becomes a potential walking bomb. And when that happens, it means Western countries are going to be tempted to crack down even harder on their own Muslim populations.

That, too, is deeply troubling. The more Western societies - particularly the big European societies, which have much larger Muslim populations than America - look on their own Muslims with suspicion, the more internal tensions this creates, and the more alienated their already alienated Muslim youth become. This is exactly what Osama bin Laden dreamed of with 9/11: to create a great gulf between the Muslim world and the globalizing West.

So this is a critical moment. We must do all we can to limit the civilizational fallout from this bombing. But this is not going to be easy. Why? Because unlike after 9/11, there is no obvious, easy target to retaliate against for bombings like those in London. There are no obvious terrorist headquarters and training camps in Afghanistan that we can hit with cruise missiles. The Al Qaeda threat has metastasized and become franchised. It is no longer vertical, something that we can punch in the face. It is now horizontal, flat and widely distributed, operating through the Internet and tiny cells.

Because there is no obvious target to retaliate against, and because there are not enough police to police every opening in an open society, either the Muslim world begins to really restrain, inhibit and denounce its own extremists - if it turns out that they are behind the London bombings - or the West is going to do it for them. And the West will do it in a rough, crude way - by simply shutting them out, denying them visas and making every Muslim in its midst guilty until proven innocent.

And because I think that would be a disaster, it is essential that the Muslim world wake up to the fact that it has a jihadist death cult in its midst. If it does not fight that death cult, that cancer, within its own body politic, it is going to infect Muslim-Western relations everywhere. Only the Muslim world can root out that death cult. It takes a village.

What do I mean? I mean that the greatest restraint on human behavior is never a policeman or a border guard. The greatest restraint on human behavior is what a culture and a religion deem shameful. It is what the village and its religious and political elders say is wrong or not allowed. Many people said Palestinian suicide bombing was the spontaneous reaction of frustrated Palestinian youth. But when Palestinians decided that it was in their interest to have a cease-fire with Israel, those bombings stopped cold. The village said enough was enough.

The Muslim village has been derelict in condemning the madness of jihadist attacks. When Salman Rushdie wrote a controversial novel involving the prophet Muhammad, he was sentenced to death by the leader of Iran. To this day - to this day - no major Muslim cleric or religious body has ever issued a fatwa condemning Osama bin Laden.

Some Muslim leaders have taken up this challenge. This past week in Jordan, King Abdullah II hosted an impressive conference in Amman for moderate Muslim thinkers and clerics who want to take back their faith from those who have tried to hijack it. But this has to go further and wider.

The double-decker buses of London and the subways of Paris, as well as the covered markets of Riyadh, Bali and Cairo, will never be secure as long as the Muslim village and elders do not take on, delegitimize, condemn and isolate the extremists in their midst.

July 07, 2005

Our Thoughts and Prayers Are With You London!

MABB © ®

Image from www.christinebeck.com

Just want to take the time to express deep sorrow for the attacks on London this morning. Our hearts are with those who are suffering as a result of them.

Also want to express total repudiation to those who perpetrate these horrific acts and thus show us the fact that for them life has no value whatsoever.

July 06, 2005

Green Light to General Elections 2005

MABB © ®

After much debate, the Bolivian Senate approved the two last hurdles to hold general elections in December 2005, and thus, totally renew the leadership of Bolivia.

Yesterday, the Senate passed two laws, which reform articles 93 and 109 of the Constitution. Article 93's reform gives green light to hold general elections, i.e. elect president, vice-president and members of congress. The reform of article 109 gives green light to the election of Prefects, who up to now, were appointed by the president.

According to the different rules governing elections in Bolivia, the specific date in which the elections will be held is the first Sunday of December. However, it is more likely to be on December 11 because of the 150 day period estipulated by the Electoral Code.

So it looks like it is very likely that the 2005 General Elections in Bolivia will be held on December 11, 2005. There ya have it!

Should Bolivia Become Parliamentary Republic?

MABB © ®

The latest news in Germany has made me to start thinking about what former president Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada said in an interview last week, from which I posted a short commentary here. GSL said that if Bolivia were a parliamentary democracy (as many European countries are), the government would essentially work better.

Taking into account that Bolivia has a semi-parliamentary system in the sense that the president is elected by the majority coalition in the legislative, it might be worth exploring the possibility of making Bolivia a full parliamentary system.

The current events in Germany show a parliamentary system of government in action. Last week the German Chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder (SPD) filed in congress a letter which asked parliament to submit his government to a vote of no confidence. Now, this is a mechanism in the parliamentary system, to show how much support the government still has in congress and if it can still effectively govern. The background for this actions by the social democrat Chancellor is a series of defeats for his party in regional elections which significantly eroded his legitimacy. The last drop came last May when the SPD (Social Democratic Party) lost the control of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. A state in which the SPD had been in control since after the war.

After much negotiation among the parties and a bit of planning by the SPD-Greens ruling coalition, Congress voted yesterday to remove confidence in Schroeder's government. After the no confidence vote, the Chancellor paid a 15 minute visit to the mostly ceremonial Head of State, Federal President, Horst Koehler. In this visit the Chancellor asked Koehler to dissolve Congress and call for new elections. This is Schroeder's real aim, to dissolve Congress and for new general elections to be called, so his government can be re-legitimized and he can continue ahead with his controversial reforms called Agenda 2010.

However, new elections will not be easy to come. First, President Koehler has 21 days, of which he already noted he would take all, to decide if the request has constitutional grounds. If Koehler decides to grant the Chancellor's wishes, the matter is most likely to go on to the Constitutional Court (CC) because many members of parliament have expressed they would seek that venue.

If the ruling is in favor of the Chancellor, Germans might be heading to the ballots as early as September. The CC is the supreme voice which will decide the matter.

Now, of course, we can get into a debate about the defects and virtues of the parliamentary system. But the question I ask is how would it work in the context of Bolivia and if it really makes sense to turn Bolivia's system into a parliamentary one.

The Bolivian case is not so simple. The president, if he finds himself isolated and weakened, does not have another choice to renew his legitimacy other than to resign and/or call for new elections. I am not sure if he can legally close Congress. But, even if he had this last choice, which president would want to pursue it and be seen as an anti-democrat for closing the people's representative body (Congress) and for carrying out a self coup d'etat.

So, what are the choices a Bolivian president has in such a situation? Well, we saw some of the choices in the last crisis with Mesa. Mr Mesa, according to news reports, was indeed thinking of closing Congress and calling for early elections. This decision however, was taken aganis the backdrop of deep political and social crisis, which was almost entirely unpredictable. However, in a matter of litteraly 10 minutes, his preferred choice was given. That was, the renouncement of Mr Vaca Diez and Mr Cossio (the Senate President and second in-line for the Presidency and the Deputies Chaber's President and third in-line respectively) to the presidential succession.

The mechanisms available for the President of Bolivia to deal with a crisis like this are conducive to more crisis. Every move the President makes is potentially seen as illegitimate and even anti-democratic.

Any comments on the subject would be appreciated, as I just started to ponder this issue.

July 05, 2005

Congress Finally Decides

MABB © ®
Congress finally came to an agreement. There will be general elections, prefect elections, Constituent Assembly and autonomic referendum.

The tentative schedule is as follows:

General Elections and elections for Prefects will be held in December 2005. The date is not given yet. The Electoral Court will give a date.

Constituent Assembly and Autonomic Referendum are scheduled for July 2006.

This is pretty much what Congress decided yesterday, but in my mind is still tentative because many things can change until July next year. The Constituent Assembly and the referendum on Autonomy are the most sticky point in the agenda.

To achieve this, Congress had to amend article 93 of the Bolivian Constitution. This amendment (reform) allows the current president Rodriguez to call for General Elections.

July 01, 2005

A Bit of US News

MABB © ®

This post is a mixture of two stories which caught my attention in the US news section in Yahoo and the New York Times.

Well, it looks like President Bush will indeed get the shot to nominate people to the Supreme Court. The first chance he is getting comes from Justice O'Connor, who just announced she is retiring from the bench.

The GOP has already expressed its desire for the nominations process to be swift and painless. I just have to think that the reality is, the process will be anything but swift and painless. Also, the two camps, conservative and liberal, are already preparing for movilizations. Interest groups from the two camps have jumped into action. This is an important time because Justice O'Connor was a swing vote for many important decisions.

There is already a list of possible nominees. Most of them have a record of being, at least in principle, against Roe v. Wade. The possibility that Roe v. Wade decision be overtuned is becoming more real.

In other more entertaining news, take a look at the crazy stunt these guys pulled off. This, so called, Improv Everywhere group of people staged a fake U2 concert on the top of a New York appartment building. According to their own account, which is impressive because of all the fun pictures they collected, it was a massive logistical stunt which involved hundred and some people. What I liked the most were the tons of picures. One in particular, that of Sven, who is seen on a roof top exhilarated because he is seen U2 play. Of course, he doesn't know it fake.

New Poll

MABB © ®

poll

Interesting new poll by Apoyo published in La Razon. The most interesting part is to see if Carlos Mesa would run, he would get 25% of the vote. That is substantially more percentage points than the other three candidates. Also, without Mesa, there is a virtual tie between Quiroga, Doria Medina and Morales. Although, there is a down trend in the Morales' numbers.

There is one thing I ask myself. Why is it that Apoyo keeps polling only the major urban centers in the country. Don't they think that the rest of the country's oppinions are important. By polling major cities only, they present a somewhat distorted view. Granted that Bolivia is now a predominantly urban society, there is still an important part of the population who live in the rural areas. These people can also vote. I think this mistake ends up misrepresenting parties like MAS. Clearly MAS has substantial support in the rural areas. We don't know how much, because pollsters keep ignoring them.

It is also sad to see so high disapproval numbers for Congress. 71% is a very high number. I am also willing to bet that number will get even higher, the was things are going now. Congress is deeply divided and cannot really arrive to decisions. At this point I am starting to think that it is a good idea to renew the whole government, legislative and executive branches.

There is one more thing I am puzzled about. The disapproval rate for Evo Morales is currently 67%, down from 72% in May. These are huge numbers. Why is it then that Morales can have such an impact on Bolivian politics?