Trouble in Bolivia5 min read

Looking back, last time I talked corruption in elections.  I took a close look at Russia and the protests that have been occurring there over the past few months.  In summary, Putin’s reign has been a long one that has been full of much mistrust between him and the people.  Many times, there has been instances of tampering with polls, extreme censorship of media and speech, and measures taken to try to limit protesting, which have been violent.  Now, we look elsewhere.  In Bolivia, like in many countries, parties in power are accused of tampering and foul play. 

Similarly, in Russia, the current president of Bolivia, Evo Morales, has been in power for much of this century, 18 years to be exact.  Bolivia even had a But, unlike Putin, Morales has actually done some good for Bolivia.  Over his several terms, he has introduced political and economic stability to South America’s poorest country.  Despite his good works in the government, his support has been on the decline in recent years.  Economic growth is slowing, and there are concerns rising about possible government corruption and anti-democratic practices.  Now, democracy is very important in Bolivia.  With a Freedom House score of 67 (out of 100, 100 being the freest) and a Freedom Rating of 3 out of 7, Bolivia is above average on the scale (stated as partly free by Freedom House).  Bolivia is a country where elections are held regularly, but other problems are still present.  Problems such as child labor, violence and suppression of women, journalists who are censored and harassed, and also protestors are sometimes met with violence.  Many of these problems, especially violence against protestors, have come to light recently.  In the past year or two, we have seen an obvious increase in protests and movements for change.  If the Bolivian people are out in the streets asking for change and following the world trend of progressivism, it certainly doesn’t help Morales’ image to censor media and meet protestors with violence.  Actions like this would make it easy to understand why he has lost support in these recent years.

This brings us to the election.  This year’s election pitted current president Evo Morales against a rather popular rival, Carlos Mesa.  Because of the popularity of the rival Mesa, Morales was afraid to let the vote go into a second round of voting.  In Bolivia, unless a candidate secures 50% of the vote or 40% with a 10-point lead, then the vote would go into a second round, which is what Morales was trying to avoid.  Some citizens and diplomats feared this and suspected that a potential tampering of the vote could occur in order for Morales to avoid a second round.  Well, fast forward towards the end of the election.  The votes are fairly close.  Mesa has even drawn support from third and fourth place finishers – Chi Hyun Chung and Senator Oscar Ortiz – who, together, hold about 13% of the vote altogether.  Morales is leading with 45% against Mesa’s 39%, 83.76% of the vote is accounted for, and all of a sudden on Sunday, October 20, TSE (Supreme Electoral Tribunal) halted the count.  This was very sudden and expected.  The Organization of American States was confused and started questioning why the vote stopped.  One goal is that these elections are quick and as transparent as possible, which was not the case.  The next day, Mesa finally issued a statement.  He was outraged, rightly so.  He accused the government, saying that they were purposely trying to eliminate a second round which wouldn’t be at all fair to Mesa.  The voting was very close and would most likely have to go into a second round.  The situation even drew attention from Brazil, Argentina, and the White House who all called for credibility and responsibility from Bolivian government.

Currently, Morales has not issued a statement on the issue.  But, he would need an outstanding majority to win which is very unlikely.  His trust is failing among the people as well.  Even if Morales does somehow manage to win, no is going to believe that he did so fairly.  As of right now, the government has actually handed Morales an outright win.  The Bolivian government is currently negotiating a deal with the Organization of American States to make sure that opinions and voices of the citizens of Bolivia are heard.  Also, the OAS is trying to find other ways to get Morales out of office.  They are trying to audit him as well.  They say that there is a massive fraud that was committed.  The people are also taking matters into their own hands.  Protests are stirring up now more than previously.  These protests have even become violent.  Some electoral offices and even been burned down, and other large marches take place.  As a seemingly authoritarian scare continues to rule, it seems Bolivians and outside help like the OAS are taking steps to ensure freedom for Bolivia.

Sources

StudentNewsDaily.com. “World #3 – Bolivia Election Confusion Stokes Concern about Foul Play.” Student News Daily, 22 Oct. 2019, https://www.studentnewsdaily.com/world-current-events/world-3-bolivia-election-confusion-stokes-concern-about-foul-play/.

“Bolivia.” Bolivia | Freedom House, 22 May 2019, https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/2019/bolivia.

“Bolivia Close to Striking Deal on Election Audit as Protests Intensify.” Reuters, Thomson Reuters, 28 Oct. 2019, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-bolivia-election/bolivia-close-to-striking-deal-on-election-audit-as-protests-intensify-idUSKBN1X701N.

1 thought on “Trouble in Bolivia<span class="wtr-time-wrap after-title"><span class="wtr-time-number">5</span> min read</span>”

  1. I think this is a really interesting case. It is shocking to see how little true democracy exists and I really like your comparison between Russia and Bolivia because it brings out the extent to which elections are being tampered with. It is clear that the people of Bolivia support and want a democratic regime, however, I do not think that change is going to be possible without external influence on authoritarian leaders like Morales. Your blog post makes me wonder how leaders like Morales with such little legitimacy forcefully rig elections and if fear and vote tampering is the only cause. It also makes me think about the role of the UN and other powers in allowing such leaders to suppress their citizens and conduct elections in such an undemocratic way. Unlike elections previously it gives me hope to look at the citizens protesting and standing up for their rights and the work of the OAS in helping the Bolivians get rid of Morales. However, I believe that history has proven that the incumbent, with the support of the elites, might still have a few tricks up their sleeves and the Arab Spring is evidence that anything is possible.

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