Bolivia celebrates its most uncertain elections in three decades
LA PAZ, Oct. 19 (EUROPE PRESS) –
Around seven million people will go to the polls to decide whether to revalidate for one more term President Evo Morales, who has governed since 2006, or if they turn around the country, betting on the opposition candidate and ex-president Carlos Mesa (2003-2005) .
“We are here with a political liberation project,” Morales, 59, said Wednesday during his campaign closure in the city of El Alto, asking Bolivians “five more years” of government for the country to continue ” growing economically. ”
Finance continues to be Morales's main source of popularity, despite the recent wear and tear of his Government, after almost 14 years in power.
Bolivia has grown at that time at an average annual rate of 4.6 percent, reducing poverty, which affected 60 percent of the population at the beginning of its mandate, and now afflicts 35 percent of citizens.
“Morales nationalized hydrocarbons in 2006, and that allowed the entry of greater fiscal resources into the State. In a high context of the raw materials property, they also allowed an unprecedented public investment in Bolivian history,” says political scientist Mario Torrico, an analyst Bolivian the FLACSO of Mexico.
Another of its main supports is the peasant vote. Morales, of the Aymara ethnic group, and the first indigenous president in the country's history, has made strong investments in the countryside, improving access to the water, electricity and education communities.
However, the president's popularity has been declining for three years.
The main turning point was a referendum held on February 21, 2016. Morales asked the Bolivians if they wanted to modify the Constitution to allow reelection for more than two consecutive periods, and thus enable their new presidential nomination.
He did not get the expected result. The citizens rejected, by a narrow margin, the modification of the Magna Carta, but Morales went to the Constitutional Court, considered as biased by the opposition, citing that preventing his candidacy violated his Human Rights.
The Court proved him right, and enabled his postulation, later confirmed by the Electoral Tribunal (TE), generating strong protests and an obvious decline in his popularity.
“This falls very badly in the vast majority of the Bolivian population, since it is perceived that the sovereign vote is not respected and that the signs of authoritarianism are becoming stronger,” says political analyst Jorge Dulon.
“It is the drop that goes beyond the glass and causes the Morales Movement to Socialism to lose half of its faithful militancy, its hard vote. Today it has a base of only 30 percent or 35 percent. Therefore, after almost 14 years, his re-election is in doubt, “adds Dulon.
Morales' candidacy has also been affected by the recent fires in the Bolivian Amazon, which have devastated more than four million hectares, according to the Friends of Nature Foundation (FAN).
Opponents consider Morales as the cause of the fires, especially after the modification of a decree, last July, which ended up authorizing land clearance in the affected departments.
Morales needs, according to Bolivian law, to gather more than 40 percent of the votes, in addition to getting at least 10 points to his rival, to avoid the second round.
Polls show mixed results. The Aymara leader does achieve the requirements to renew his mandate, this October 20, in several polls, but at least five recently published polls show Mesa growing, with between 26 and 28 percent of the votes, and at declining president, with between 33 and 39 percent of the vote, figures that would mean holding a very uncertain second round.
But the opposition also has its own problems. The largest of them is the existing division in their ranks. Carlos Mesa has not managed to bring the support of the opponents to Morales until the polls have positioned him as the only one capable of forcing the holding of a second electoral round.
“In the opposition, the caudillista interest prevails over the programmatic convergence,” says Ludwig Valverde, president of the La Paz College of Political Scientists.
Mesa, who maintained a popularity greater than 60 percent in his previous term, although he resigned for not having parliamentary support, and after the emergence of new protests, led by Morales, criticize him from his own side for his moderation and his reluctance to radically modify the economic policy of the country.
“Mesa does observe, however, the deficiencies that occurred in Evo's efforts in 14 years such as corruption, drug trafficking, contraband, co-optation of state institutions, inefficiency in the management of public affairs and waste of resources,” comments analyst Dulon.
The candidate has also received harsh criticism of the ruling party. Morales's environment accuses him of being complicit in the strong repression against the protests of October 2003, which arose in claim of the nationalization of hydrocarbons, which left at least 60 dead in the city of El Alto.
Mesa was then vice president of Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada (2002-2003), who resigned for those same protests.
The now candidate rejects the accusations. He argues that he withdrew his support for his leader when one of the greatest massacres of those days was known, after warning that the dead “were going to bury him”, and also remember that he resigned from similar protests, in 2005, to avoid deaths.
The opposition candidate, a prolific writer, author of more than twenty works, some of them of academic reference, has managed to bring together the vote of discontent against Morales, supported by the good memory that his presidential management left in part of the population, in which he chose to hold a referendum on hydrocarbons that opened the door to the nationalization of resources.