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Public meeting on the Bolivian elections

On the 27th of October the Socialist People’s Party of Denmark hosted a public meeting about the results of the Bolivian elections and invited for a debate on the prospects for democratic and economic development in Bolivia

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Report and photos by the Socialist People’s Party of Denmark

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Background

For the last 5 years SF has cooperated with the socialist party MAS (Movimiento al Socialismo) in Bolivia and for the last 2½ years the two parties have had a partnership project funded by DIPD – promoting democratic processes in Bolivia. It was on this basis SF held a public meeting on Boliva and the recent election. There was a great interest in the event and the participants included representatives from both political parties, NGOs and the educational sector. The range of speakers consisted of experts in both Denmark and Bolivia, among them the Danish ambassador to Bolivia, , Ole Thonke, and the Bolivian ambassador to Denmark, Carla Ledezma. In addition, the participants also god a live radio greeting from the deputy chairman of MAS, Leonida Zorita, who was giving an interview at a radio station in Cochabamba.

Results of the election

On October 12th Bolivia’s president, Evo Morales was re-elected. The socialist party MAS, which has been in power since 2006, won the elections with 61,04% of the votes compared to 24,49 % to the nearest opponent, Samuel Doria Medina leader of the National Unity Front.  This gives MAS another five years as the ruling party in Bolivia with 111 of the 166 seats in the parliament’s two chambers.

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Changes in Bolivia

Bolivia has previously been characterized by political instability, but since Morales and MAS came to power in 2006, the situation in the country has been relatively stable. During this period the achievements of the MAS government have been significant. They have implemented political, economic and cultural reforms leading to improved macro-economic figures, universal pension benefits, state control over natural resources and wage increases, all improving the material conditions of the Bolivian people. According to a report by the Centre for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) in Washington, Bolivia has grown much faster over the last eight years than in any period over the past three and a half decades and under the MAS government poverty has declined by 25% and minimum wage has increased by 87.7%. Nevertheless Bolivia remains one of South America’s poorest countries.

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In 2009 the MAS government further implemented a comprehensive constitutional reform at all levels carrying out the multi-ethnic and multi-cultural rights in the country focusing on a high degree of autonomy in indigenous territories.

These changes may have been a significant factor for the MAS-victory, and the results of the two latest elections demonstrate that Morales and MAS-IPSP continuously have clear majority support among the population – but like Bolivia-analyst Marianne Victor Hansen pointed out at the SF-meeting, one of the phenomenons of particular interest in this election is the fact that there has been a change regarding the distribution of the votes. Where the Bolivian votes in the last elections divided the country into two, the MAS government at this election won support in the lowlands.

As the figure demonstrates the only region where MAS didn’t get the majority of the votes was Beni, here Samuel Doria Medina and the National Unity Front came out victorious.

This change among other things reflects the economical situation of the country and the satisfaction in the business and industrial field. Further it can be interpreted as a result of the new discourse of MAS focusing on cooperation and the wellbeing of the entire country – not only the poor in the highlands.

 Another interesting change in this election regards the gender equality in the Chamber of Deputies, which according to Marianne Victor Hansen has increased from 23 % to 50 % women, which even exceeds the Nordic countries where the participation of women is only 42%

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With a third term assured, what are the challenges?

According to Bolivia’s constitution the term of government is restricted to a maximum of two periods of five years, but the Constitutional Court in Bolivia has recognized that the two periods count from the date of the new Constitution and thus gives Evo Morales the opportunity to lead a third term of government. This has contributed to criticism of Morales’ authoritarian tendencies  and international observers wonder whether Morales will seek to change the constitution so he can run for a fourth term in 2020, which he however rejects.

 No doubt that Morales and MAS have created a solid foundation for the major challenges facing Bolivia in the next term of government. – But can economic growth and further reduced poverty be maintained? What does the development of democratic process require with such a powerful party in the lead? And what will happen after Morales? – These were some of the issues that were discussed at the meeting and it was clear that Bolivia towards 2020 is facing great opportunities for development, but also a number of democratic and developmental challenges.

More information

Visit the partnership page

Contact International Coordinator for SF, Dea Donkin at dea.donkin@ft.dk.

Visit the homepage of The Socialist People’s Party.

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