April 30, 2009

The Electoral Season II

MABB © ®

The electoral season has already started in Bolivia. The general elections of December this year will be, yet again, one more important electoral event Bolivia will have to pass on its way to more stability. The clock has started to run and the different political groups are organizing themselves. One thing is certain, Evo Morales and Alvaro Garcia from MAS will run for re-election. What is left to be sorted out are the different opponents MAS will have.

In that respect, there are several interesting developments concerning MAS' support. Having into account that the last time MAS was up for vote in 2005, it got 54% of the vote. Even though this was a historic number, this time around, it doesn't seem as though MAS will reach anywhere near that far.

There were always rumors of rifts within the party. I've always heard rumors about differences between the so called "indigenous wing" in MAS and the "intellectual" win. The argument was that the objectives of the two were hardly reconcilable. In recent months those rifts have been brought to light. The most recent significant example of such rifts is Román Loayza's divorcing the party. He was, after all, the leader of the campesinos (CSUTCB) and founder of MAS, and thus a fundamental piece within the power structure of MAS. In the last few weeks, Loayza announced he will register a new political party and will run for election in December. This is the outcome of a long struggle within MAS between Loayza and Morales. Loayza left MAS complaining that Morales was surrounded by people who were taking advantage of the moment and had nothing to do with the indigenous movement MAS was. He especifically pointed at Walker San Miguel, Alfredo Rada and Juan Ramon Quintana. Loayza also said that he was told he was the "moral guardian" of the party and as such he would run for the presidency.

Since 2005, MAS lost valuable people in its ranks. Recently, the operative right hand of Morales, former YPFB director, Santos Ramirez, was thrown out of the party for corruption. He was caught receiving pay-offs from the state oil company's contractors. Also, MAS senators (Guido Guardia and Gerald Ortiz) declared themselves dissident and broke with the government's line. This resulted on MAS having 10 instead of 12 Senators and so losing influence in the Senate. In addition, former ideologue and founder of MAS as well, Filemon Escobar, also left MAS for disagreements with Morales. Lastly, a young cruceno woman, Adriana Gil, who had been credited with delivering significant support for Evo Morales in Santa Cruz, left the party because she felt the leadership did not recognized her efforts.

MAS has lost significant support since 2005. But, the biggest blow is the splitting of Román Loayza, who has a significant number of supporters among one of the largest groups within MAS, the peasants group.

Below, you see a picture of Adriana Gil, who is a very young (24 years old) political figure in Santa Cruz. She has recently said that she will support Romàn Loayza in his efforts to gain the presidency.



I was impressed by this young lady, in her courage to stand up for what she believes. She supported Morales in one of the most difficult regions to support someone like Morales. Yet, she helped him gain acceptance and, most importantly, votes in 2005. However, similarly disenchanted with what Morales is currently doing, she has left the party and is seeking now other ways to channel her energy and "political savvy". Just as an additional note in this post, is this the face of the future first elected woman President of Bolivia?


Links:
La Razón, Adriana Gil, Bottup, El Deber interview, El Deber attacks, El Deber cadidates 2004, Bolpress, Book on R Loayza, Ernesto Justiniano blog, La Prensa

April 26, 2009

Electoral Season in Bolivia

MABB © ®

The electoral season is taking shape and the possible candidates for the December general elections are taking their first steps. In the course of last week, former Vicepresident during the first term of Sanchez de Lozada, Victor Hugo Cardenas has decided to confirm his intention to run for president. Cardenas, of Aymara descent, said he is working on his candidacy's bureaucratic process, on his financing and his coalition building.

Cardenas is a clear rival for Morales and one of the many candidates with indigenous roots expected to take part in the elections this time around. He has the potential to attract adherents not only in the Altiplano, which is where he comes from, but also in the Eastern lowlands of the country. The Santa Cruz Prefect, Ruben Costas, has put emphasis on building a national coalition to confront the government in the elections. Cardenas might just be the candidate of elections for this coalition.

Meanwhile, on the part of the government some problems emerge on the horizon. Most important is the erosion of support within the ranks of MAS. In the last weeks the indigenous of the Eastern lowlands have expressed their desire to "revise" their relationship with the government. The CIDOB (Confederacion de Indigenas del Oriente de Bolivia) were upset the government did not pressed on the number of "special districts" for indigenous in the new Congress. The new electoral law only has 8 of these districts and not 14 as it was demanded by indigenous groups. With that, the seats for CIDOB were eliminated.

But the MAS' problems do not end there. A now dissident, founder and former leader of MAS, Roman Loayza, has been hinting at joining the elections as candidate. Loayza has criticized before some of the decisions Morales has taken regarding his cabinet. Specifically, Loayza dislikes the presence of Alfredo Rada, Juan Ramon Quintana and the Peredo brothers whom he links with traditional parties and says have hijacked Morales and the presidency. Loayza argues that there are a number of groups unhappy with morales' performance, namely the indigenous faction with in MAS. He cites as examples his travels and conversations with indigenous people in Santa Cruz, Beni and Pando. At the same time, some signs of dissatisfaction come from the Santa Cruz neighborhood and MAS stronghold, Plan 3000.

Also signs of dissatisfaction are shown in El Alto. The city's council member, Roberto de la Cruz, has expressed he has been approached by groups unhappy about the way Morales has been governing and has been urged to seek his candidacy. That way bringing an alternative to MAS.

On the electoral race there is already Rene Joaquino of AS in Potosi who has also announced his candidacy. This is another potential problem for MAS since it is bound to split the vote in Potosi. In any case, Loayza and Joaquino are in conversations about a possible coalition. So there might be a new coalition coming.

Another indigenous or campesino announcing his candidacy was Alejo Veliz of Cochabamba.

So it seems MAS has its problems. Support might be dwindling due to Morales' decision to stick with the people around him or it might just be a strategy to win the 2/3 majority in the next Congress.

I explain myself. In the elections for the Constituent Assembly, a strategy MAS used was to present itself, at the local level, with a different name altogether. This was to adjust itself to local conditions and to somehow distract the opposition. After the candidates were elected, these allied with MAS. In the end MAS had a majority, very close to a super majority. Simple! If this strategy paid off in 2006, it might just be that MAS wants to use it again in December 2009. It might just be that Loayza, Veliz, Gil and others are just pretending to split from MAS to gain the votes and later on ally with MAS. After all, this is the government who said they were just bluffing in the new constitution negotiations with the opposition in Congress so they would get just what they wanted in the end. Let's remember that.

Links:

La Prensa.

April 16, 2009

A Peek Into the New Electoral Law

MABB © ®


This is a short and preliminary look into the new Bolivian electoral law. It is also opportune to mention that there are apparently many versions circulating. Until the government publishes the law in the official newspaper (Gaceta Oficial), there will be doubts. The version I got comes from Congress. Thank you Mariana!

Characteristics

The law has 75 articles and 8 final regulations.

Citizens older than 18 years of age can vote (before there was a proposal by the government to let 16 year olds vote). One has to be registered and eligible to vote.

To promote gender equality each candidate list will have to alternate between men and women. In the single districts, the alternating principle will also be applied. The exceptions are the candidates for the special indigenous seats. In this case, they can apply their own rules.

The current electoral courts officials are to remain in their posts until the members of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (national and departmental) are elected.

There will be a new voter registration list, which will use biometric data as well as ID number, RUN or military service number.

People who cannot run for election are: government officials, ministers and military personnel in active service who did not resign from their post at least 3 months before election day; directors in "transnational companies" who did not resignt at least 5 years before election day; citizens who are in prison and owe the state.

The law calls for general elections and autonomic referenda on December 6, 2009 and for elections of departmetnal executives and assembies as well as municipal authorities on April 4, 2010.

Election procedures

President and Vicepresident - 51% + (absolute majority) or at least 40% with a minimum 10% difference with the second runner up. If no candidate winns, there will be a second round of elections (within 60 days) between the two most voted candidates. He or she who wins with a simple majority will win.

Legislative Plurinational Assembly - it is composed of the Chamber of Deputies and the Chamber of Senators. The lower chamber will be made up of 130 seats, from which 68 will be uninominal (single district/simple majority/based on population and territory) and 54 plurinominal (party lists headed by President and VP/proportional representation) and 8 "special indigenous" seats (simple majority/indigenous districts). The upper chamber will be made up of 36 members, 4 in each department. They will be elected according to proportional representation system as well.

Departmental executives - Governors or Prefects can be elected; in all departments, except in Santa Cruz, Governors or Prefects can be elected by simple majority (in Santa Cruz absolute majority is necessary). In Santa Cruz there will be a second round if necessary between the two most voted candidates (similar to the national level). There is the possibility to resign or bein recalled.

Departmental Assemblies in Beni, Tarija, Pando and Santa Cruz - In Beni the assembly is made up of 3 representatives of each departmental province, two indigenous and two campesinos (peasants) seats. In Tarija there will be 30 seats, 12 per province, 15 according to population and 3 indigenous seats. In Pando there will be one representative per municipality and one indigenous representative. In Santa Cruz a total of 28 seats, of which one representative for each of the 15 provinces, five indigenous seats and 8 seats according to population in each province.

April 15, 2009

Electoral Law Passed

MABB © ®

On Tuesday, April 14, 2009, at 4.04 am, the Bolivian Congress passed the new "transitory" Electoral Law wich has 75 articles and 8 disposiciones transitorias (additional rules). With this, this and next year's electoral schedule are set. The major decisions are:

  1. The creation of a biometric voter registration system (Art. 19).
  2. General elections on December 6, 2009 - This means re-election for Morales and Garcia and the election of members of Congress (Art. 25).
  3. At the same time there will be referenums on autonomy for the departments of La Paz, Cochabamba, Potosí, Chuquisaca and Oruro.
  4. In addition, there will also be a referendum on regional autonomy for the Gran Chaco province
  5. On April 4, 2010 there will be municipal and departmental elections when Prefects and Mayors will be elected (Art. 26).
  6. In the last minute it was decided to set the "special" indigenous seats to 7 instead of 8 due to the intervention of the Chuquisaca faction.
  7. The Vocales (people who make decisions in the National Electoral Court) will remain there until the next elections (Art. 13).
  8. The President and Vicepresident winner will be elected by obteined votes of 50+1 per cent or 40+ per cent with a minimum 10 per cent difference with the second winner.
  9. There will be 4 Senators per Department and 130 Deputies in the lower chamber (single district and party lists) (Art. 32, 35, 39).
The law passed by the Chamber of Deputies included 14 seats, but the Concertation Committee (the negotiation venue between the opposition and MAS) modified this number to 8 seats. In the end it was lowered to 7 seats for the above mentioned reasons.

How the negotiation went:

At one point, the opposition and MAS could not agree on how voters might register. The opposition questioned the documents required to register, namely it was agains the use of passports, the RUN (Registro Unico Nacional), and the military service document. Their main concern was falsification. In the end the documents were left the way they were.

The opposition wants the resignation of the National Electoral Court, Mr. Exeni.

Some links:
Law 1660, Law 1245, La Razon article.

April 13, 2009

The "Transitory" Electoral Law

MABB © ®

Bolivia has reached a state of political crisis once again due to the discrepancies between opposition and government in generating a "transitional" Electoral Law. This law is supposed to provide legal framework for the December 6, 2009 general elections and the Prefect and municipal elections in 2010. It is transitional because, once the new Plurinational Assembly is elected in December, it will work on passing a new electoral law.

As usual, a "concerting" commission in Congress is handling the negotiations while the law is being debated on the floor. However, there are several points that still need agreement:

1. The overseas vote
2. The national voter registration list
3. The special indigenous seats

Since Thursday last week opposition and government could not agree on neither of these points. On the issue of special indigenous seats, the parties are still playing with numbers ganging from 14 to 8 seats. The organizations representing the indigenous groups demanded the government to give them 14 seats in Congress. The opposition has argued that this would generate imbalance in the representation ratio against urban areas, over representing rural areas where the population is less.

On the issue of the overseas vote, first, the National Electoral Court (J. L. Exeni) said the revision of the national voter registry and the implementation of a biometric voter registration system (one that registers photo, digital signature and finger prints) was not possible. Now, Exeni is promising to implement such a system in three months, after the government agreed on financing such a move.

To this it has to be added that there has been a series of observations, made by analysts arguing the national voter registry is being manipulated and thus not trustworthy. That is the reason the opposition insists on revising the list and making it secure against manipulation.

These disagreements have caused the opposition to walk out of the debate after Vice President and Congress President Garcia passed the law "en grande", meaning without detailed revision of each of its 80 articles. At the same time, the opposition move prompted the government to threaten a massive and voluntary resignation by MAS members of Congress. But, since this would not work for the government, the President Evo Morales decided to start a hunger strike. Below you can see the Bolivian President in hunger strike. Images from ABI.



The situation is favorably unfolding due to the government's agreement to implement and finance the biometric system of voter registration and the reduction of special indigenous seats in Congress.