Bolivia: Speaking of elections Posted by: McQ
on Monday, July 03, 2006
Evo Morales' victory in the recent Bolivian presidential campaign was splashed across the front pages of newspapers across the globe. Morales, an Aymara Indian and the first "indigenous" Bolivian ever to hold that high office, ran on a decidedly left-wing socialist agenda which promised to take greater state control over the economy. On May 1st (the prefect day for such an act), Morales nationalized the nation's natural gas industry.
As it turns out, that may have been a tactical mistake with strategic consequences for him and his ruling party.
Last Sunday, Bolivia had a vote which would seat the constituent assembly. Morales hoped to see his party win a 2/3rds majority among those contending for office. Doing so would have allowed him to easily rewrite the constitution and accelerate his plans to seize "unproductive lands" from absentee owners, and "to strengthen traditional Indian justice systems in a country with a notoriously corrupt legal system."
But a funny thing happened on the way to the Assembly:
The vote results, based on a partial count of actual votes at 100 percent of polling stations done for the PAT television network, gave Morales supporters 132 seats in the 255-person body, far short of the two-thirds majority they needed to push through their leftist agenda.
Now maybe it's just me, and maybe it's just wishful thinking, but perhaps Bolivians are having a few second thoughts, and I can't help but believe those second thoughts may have been provoked by the nationalization of the natural gas industry.
It isn't just the Assembly vote which leads me to that conclusion, there was also a second vote on the ballot:
In a separate ballot question with potentially explosive results, voters in four of Bolivia's nine states overwhelmingly chose greater political and economic autonomy for their states, according to the unofficial results.
Almost half of Bolivia's states have said they prefer more instead of less political and economic autonomy. Hardly a ringing endorsement of the Morales economic plan if you ask me. It is the combination of these two votes which has me believing Bolivians are having second thoughts about Morales and his policies.
That means a couple of things. Obviously Morales is going to have difficulty passing his agenda now legally. Time will tell if he will be able to persuade the Assembly to go along with his programs, but, based on this election, my guess would be to he won't. Given that, how will he respond. Will he attempt the Hugo Chavez approach to consolidating power by seemingly legal means. Or will he resort to outright authoritarian means and use force to do so. If I were a betting man, I'd bet that he and Chavez will have many long and involved talks in the very near future.
Had Morales held off on his nationalization of the natural gas industry until after this election, he may have ended up with the desired result in the Assembly. But he just couldn't wait (and that's human nature) to prove to those who elected him that he meant what he said. That demonstration may have cost him any real chance at legally furthering his agenda.
Frankly, I find that to be a good thing for the people of Bolivia and I'm happy to see them having their second thoughts and acting on them.
If he would have stuck by his campaign promise to legalize the coca industry I’d almost be willing to give him a pass on all of his pitiful socialist snake oil. But instead he caved. Here’s hoping the remainder of his rule is as brief and harmless as possible. The goal the Bolivian opposition must now be to prevent him from changing their constitution to suit his interests.