The Inter-American Dialogue’s daily publication, the Latin America Advisor, features Kathryn Ledebur’s comments in its Q&A section: “Will Morales Try for a Fourth Term as Bolivia’s President?”
Read her commentary below, or to read the entire publication, visit the Inter-American Dialogue website here .
Q: Despite losing a referendum nearly a year ago that would have allowed him to run for a fourth consecutive term, Bolivian President Evo Morales said last month that he may seek another term anyway. Morales made the statement after his Movement to Socialism party named him as its candidate for the 2019 election. Why is Morales floating the idea even though voters rejected amending the Constitution to allow him another term? What factors will determine whether Morales runs for and wins election to a fourth term? Will Bolivia’s problems, such as a severe drought, social unrest and an economic slowdown, erode Morales’ popularity? Is the opposition strong enough to mount a successful presidential campaign against him?
A: Kathryn Ledebur, director of the Andean Information Network in Cochabamba, Bolivia: “Morales is employing a time-honored Bolivian political tradition by keeping his opponents and the public and the international community guessing. It is not surprising that the MAS annual convention rallied behind re-election; it is in its short-term interest to maintain party unity under Morales and distract the opposition from targeting other potential candidates. Events are unpredictable during the almost two-year span before the 2019 elections, and it is quite possible that even Morales and MAS have not yet decided what course to take.
The rainy season ended the current drought, leading to significant flooding. The lag in the Bolivian economy could erode support for Morales, but the overall comparative outlook for the country remains strong, with international reserves more than five times higher than those of any administration during the preceding decade. Uncertainty about the impact of the Trump presidency make other commodity prices and their impact on the Bolivian economy difficult to predict, but it could increase the importance of Bolivia’s gold reserves. It is also too early to identify potential opposition candidates. Currently, the opposition remains severely divided and lacks concrete proposals. Although recurring friction within Morales’ diverse political base has characterized its tenure, it is unclear whether an opposition candidate would be able to appeal to these disenchanted sectors. We may not know who MAS will choose as its candidate until several months before the election. It is wiser to focus on what MAS leadership does, instead of what it says it will do.”