The coming year 2019 promises to be rich in important political events. Among the most significant are Brexit and the withdrawal of the US troops from Syria. In addition, presidential elections will be held in a number of countries around the world, and new leaders will take office. One of the events of the political calendar of 2019 will be the selection of a new president of Bolivia. Will Evo Morales, despite social protests and the provisions of the State Constitution, be able to remain in power? What is the ruling party “Movement towards Socialism” ready to do to extend the era of Evo?
On December 5 last year, the Supreme Electoral Court of the Plurinational State of Bolivia allowed the current President Evo Morales and Vice President Álvaro García Linera to run for the fourth time in the first round of elections scheduled for January 27 of 2019. Thus, the ruling party “Movement towards Socialism” (Spanish – Movimiento al Socialismo, MAS) bypasses the Political Constitution of Bolivia, adopted in 2009, for the second time. According to the main legislative document of the country, a candidate can be elected to the position of president no more than two times. Each presidential term is limited to a five-year period.
Leading the country since 2006, Evo Morales ends his third presidential term at the end of this year. Due to the adoption of the new Political Constitution in 2009 during the first term of Morales, the re-election rule was applied only from the second term, and the first four years were not “counted”. That is, the charismatic leader from the “left” camp succeeded in November of 2009 to be re-elected for the first presidential term, and in November of 2014 – to participate in the presidential race again.
In February of 2016, a referendum was held in Bolivia to amend the constitution, which would allow Morales to be re-elected for the fourth time. Opponents of the introduction of changes to the constitution gained 51.3%, supporters of the amendments turned out to be slightly less – 48.7%. Then the leader of the party “Movement towards Socialism” declared that he recognized the results of the citizens’ will, but later described the referendum as a “victory of lies” and “the machinations of the opposition”, which managed to unearth the “piquant” facts of the Bolivian “people’s father’s” personal life. Still, Evo Morales could not “let go of power”, so he appealed to the Supreme Electoral Court of the Plurinational State of Bolivia, which on December 5 of last year allowed the current president to run for the fourth time in the elections in 2019. Thus, Morales for the second time managed to circumvent the fundamental law of the country.
Since 2016, Bolivia continues to experience a period of sharp social protests. Dissenters were divided into several groups at once: defenders of the Bolivian democracy, supporters of opposition parties seeking power, as well as representatives of the political elite, who in 2005 gave power to a representative of the “left” camp and intend to take revenge. However, as emphasized by a number of international observers, the main problem of such a “motley” in its composition of participants and the ideological attitudes of the opposition is its complete disunity, as if the opponents could not unite and present a worthy candidate. The brilliant idea of the current government to hold the first round of voting took the opponents of the left regime of Morales by surprise, and also set new tasks for the disoriented opposition.
According to public opinion polls, the main candidate for victory is still Evo Morales, who for the past 12 years has managed to keep the power out of his hands. By the way, he became the only president who ruled Bolivia for so long. According to analysts, the “lion’s share” of Evo Morales Ayma’s electorate is made up of representatives of the new generation of Evo: employees of nationalized corporations, employees from the state apparatus and large-scale social projects. In addition, Morales, as in 2005, represents the interests of people from rural areas living in large cities, and the “local” votimg is decisive in these elections. True to his style, Morales made innovative proposals for the influential sectors of entrepreneurship in Santa Cruz, on which the rapid development of the country depends. Such support, translated into a number of votes, will not be so weighty, but it will be able to determine the future of the country like never before.
According to the latest polls, Evo retains an advantage over the candidate from the “Left Revolutionary Front” bloc (Spanish – Frente Revolucionario de Izquierda, FRI), who is in second place – Carlos Mesa. A famous Bolivian journalist, former president of the country and historian had moments of glory in his role as a representative of the resolution of the maritime issue at the International Court of Justice in The Hague. Thus, the failure in The Hague was also partly his failure. He did not think about the consequences and quickly “jumped off the sinking ship,” announcing his candidacy for the presidency. Since then, much has been said about him and his decision. “He was already president and retired three times at critical moments for the country,” some of his detractors often say. Others remember that he left the government at a very difficult time for political reasons and systematically destroyed the traditional parties in his administration. The third group of his opponents includes advocates of some individual guarantees, including freedom of expression, protection against manipulation in the field of justice and corruption. Supporters see Mesa as the savior of the Bolivian democracy and believe that he will be able to get ahead.
Other candidates, according to the latest public opinion polls, in the aggregate will not be able to sum up 15%: former head of state Jaime Paz Zamora (1989–1993), former vice president Victor Hugo Cárdenas during the government of Sánchez de Lozada (1993–1997) and experienced politician and the current governor of the department of Santa Cruz – Rubén Costas.
In addition, on December 11 of last year, representatives of the United Nations (UN) said they did not intend to challenge the decision of the Supreme Electoral Court of Bolivia, allowing President Evo Morales to re-nominate his candidacy for the highest office in the country. The UN Resident Coordinator in Bolivia, Mauricio Ramirez, stressed that the UN, as an independent organization, will enforce the constitutional rights of the entire population, including the opposition, protesting against intention of Morales to go for a fourth presidential term. He called for “peaceful, transparent and democratic elections” and noted that the UN does not intend to comment or evaluate the decision of the Supreme Electoral Court, which allowed Evo Morales to participate in presidential competition again.
According to the current president, he would prefer to move away from power, return to his home region and engage in the harvest of coca, but “it is not easy to refuse when the people put forward you”. Popular call makes him run for another term contrary to the Constitution of the country. Whether someone will be able to challenge the leadership of Morales and whether the opposition will be able to raise mass social protests again will be shown very soon. Nevertheless, it is quite obvious that the year 2019 will not be an easy test for Bolivian democracy.