By Harry Palmer
The road to the Bolivian elections on 4 December is becoming increasingly fraught with obstacles. After Carlos Mesa’s resignation and the inauguration of Supreme Court head Eduardo Rodriguez as interim president last June, it was agreed to move national elections, originally scheduled for 2007, forward to December.
However last month the Constitutional Court ruled that seats must be reapportioned to reflect the population shifts in the 2001 census, and without this change, elections would be unconstitutional.
The substance of the ruling — the revision of seats based on census data — is not in question. What is problematic and controversial is the timing of the ruling, as parties have already declared candidates according to the existing distribution of seats.
The revision of seats would likely work to the benefit of candidates to the right, such as PODEMOS leader Jorge Quiroga, and to the detriment of Evo Morales and MAS. The ruling occurred just days after the announcement that MAS party candidate and coca grower leader, Evo Morales, leads most national polls.
And in a further twist, Rodriguez has warned he will resign if elections do not take place as planned. The final decision about when to hold elections falls to Bolivia’s congress. But most congressional representatives currently in office were members of discredited parties.
Bolivia has seen limited blockades and protests recently by social groups, municipalities, and university students over the destination of new tax revenues generated by the implementation of the hydrocarbons law passed during the Mesa administration. These will almost certainly increase, regardless of the timing of elections.
The underlying causes of Bolivia’s recent political and social upheaval remain unresolved. Any president will face almost insurmountable obstacles and demands, including the distribution of limited resources to benefit a largely impoverished population, creating a Constituent Assembly acceptable to a deeply divided population, and meeting demands for accountability of ex-officials.
External pressures include U.S. mandates for coca eradication and staunch opposition to a Morales-led administration, as well as the economic interests of international oil and gas companies. Even if elections do occur as scheduled, Bolivia faces an increasingly rocky and turbulent future.
• Andean Information Network: www.ain.org.bo