Latin American Advisor Q&A: Is Bolivia’s Morales a shoo-in for a third term?

Excerpt from the Inter-American Dialogue’s newsletter, the Latin American Advisor.  For the full version, please see the Inter-American Dialogue’s website.

Featured Q&A: Is Bolivia’s Evo Morales a Shoo-in for a Third Term?

Bolivian President Evo Morales is leading in voter intention with 52 percent of voters saying they would vote for him ahead of the country’s presidential election on Oct. 12 in which he will face four challengers and seek a third term, according to a poll by Equipos Moris published in early August. Morales has so far refused calls from opposition candidate Samuel Doria Medina for a public debate ahead of the election. What is behind Morales’ disinterest in holding a debate, and what are the main issues driving the campaigns? Is Morales in a strong enough position to win in the election’s first round? How are the races for the more than 160 seats in the Senate and Chamber of Deputies shaping up, and how will the composition of Congress affect how the winner of the presidential race can govern?

Answer: Kathryn Ledebur, director of the Andean Information Network in Cochabamba:

“Morales feels no need to defend his track record to what he considers neoliberal opponents, and their escalating demands for engagement have led him to dig in his heels even deeper. In short, he knows he will win the election without making the effort. The stagnant, inefficient judicial system, continued high levels of violence against women and the lack of prior consent from the residents of TIPNIS territory have provoked broad criticisms of the ruling MAS party. Its opponents have done little to provide alternative proposals to address these issues. Instead, campaigns focus on complaints and denunciations, some fabricated and others well founded. Contenders often target issues such as coca production and social programs, which the Morales administration has addressed much more successfully than its predecessors. The strong economy, including popular cash transfer programs, and flailing opposition have even allowed MAS to announce unpopular initiatives against illegally imported vehicles and reduction in fuel subsidies by 2016 without putting re-election at risk. Morales will probably win in the first round, or easily in the second, as his opponents show no apparent inclination toward alliances. Opposing candidates seem resigned to obtain dispersed congressional seats, some through direct election and others based on the percentage of votes received by presidential contenders. It impossible to predict whether MAS can obtain the two-thirds majority in Congress needed for major initiatives, but it will most likely garner 50 percent. In any case, the longstanding history of strong executive action by decree in Bolivia would impede U.S. levels of legislative gridlock.”

For answers from Jaime Aparicio Otero, former Bolivian ambassador to the United States, and Miguel Centellas, assistant professor of political science at Jackson State University in Mississippi, please see this link.