July 23, 2005

On the Way to Elections in December

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The political parties are in full swing in preparation for the oncoming December 4th elections. In fact some of them have even come out stronger than anticipated.

More or less, the established parties are in the process of defining their candidates and their campaigns. Some issues floating around are campaign finance (some parties want to stop government finance for political campaigns) and the respect of the first majority (this was thrown into the ring by Tuto Quiroga). However we should not expect something definite in the near future. As I said, they are topics being discussed as I write this post.

What is important to highlight is what the parties themselve are doing. Most of them have set dates for their national conventions where they will decide who will be the candidates for president, vice-president, senators and deputies. Additionally, the parties want to define their strategies. Following there is a brief description of plans and primary strategies of some parties.


The MAS party will hold its national convention, although they call it assembly, on July 30 and 31.

Among their proposed strategies are:

- To work on establising alliances with other political parties
- To broaden their appeal to the middle class
- To establish international relations with other Latin American countries and the EU and Asia.

One part of MAS' strategy is to go after Tuto Quiroga. MAS has filed a demand against Quiroga with the courts. The party argues that Quiroga should be tried for acting against the country while he was president. Allegedly, Quiroga signed four shared-risk contracts with energy companies and did not send the contracts to Congress to be approved.


The MNR is to hold its national convention on August 11th. However, the party is in deep crisis due to an internal split of factions. These factions are, on the one side loyal followers of Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada (who is the current leader and boss of the party) of which included are the current leadership. On the other side, there are the people following Juan Carlos Gumucio, who thinks the MNR needs a change in leadership. Thus, there is not much time for strategy for this party.


MIR has said it will hold its national convention on August 10. The party was also in a crisis, but it seems to be coming out of it. The agenda for the conventions is as follows:

- To determine who the candidates will be
- To think about alliance scenarios
- To fix the problem with Potosi

The party has made two important decisions, as far as I can see. One is, the current leader Jaime Paz Zamora, has understood the need for change in leadership and thus he is stepping aside to make space and instead he will be seeking the prefecture of Tarija. The other one is that it seems the next presidential candidate will be Hormando Vaca Diez. This will have to be decided on August 10. But, along with the elections of Vaca Diez as the presidential candidate, come many problems that have to be thought out. First, there is a faction of MIR, namely that of Potosi, who have said they will not support a Vaca Diez candidacy. Second, strategically, it may prove to be challenging. The party is seeking to broaden its national support, thus some people think that by choosing Vaca Diez, they will gain more support in Eastern Bolivia (Santa Cruz, to be more exact). However, the same choice will for sure rest significant support from the Western side of the country. So, some in the party are aguing to choose a vice-president from the Altiplano. This can potentially be optimal for MIR.

As expected, there are many issues to be resolved before even getting started. The elections are some five months away and, in my opinion, there is not much time. What I like to see though, is the process to move along the way it is doing.


eduardo said...

ADN seems to be dead too, as Tuto Quiroga is heading up his own citizen's group (Alianza Siglo XX1) and NFR also seems to be bringing back a tired Manfred Reyes Villa.

Why would anyone new want to be a political party's candidate, when he/she can form their own group without all of the negative publicity of a party?

Miguel said...

Definitely, the traditional political parties are in trouble. And, part of their problem is, as I see it, that most of them have support based on a charismatic leader, rather than support for their ideology.

I whish that personalism approach in Bolivian politics would translate into support for an ideology. That the most important thing would be the party's agenda, rather than the leader. I wish this "caudillismo" mentality would be left aside, once and for all. :-)

Aufbau Ost said...

Sorry to abuse the comment function, but could you email me, please?
I lost your email addy when my laptop died last month. The books i have for you made it safely across the ocean and are ready to be send to you, but I need an adress from you.

Talk to you soon, Melli

Nick said...

Miguel, thanks for all the work you put in commenting on political life in Bolivia. I live in Bolivia and read the papers, but still find your perspectives useful and interesting. Have a good break! Nick

Miguel said...

Thanks Nick.
That is actually the idea, for it to be helpful.

Fredrik Lindqvist said...

As I have head MIR is a socialdemocratic party, but I have also heard that it is centrist or even conservative. And it has cooperated first with ADN and then with MNR. Is it possilbe for it to form a left-wing alliance with MAS and MSM? What about MBL? It was in alliance with MNR, but is left-wing. Is it possilbe that MBL forms an alliance with MAS and MSM (Juan Del Granado is a former MBL member).

Miguel said...

Well, to tell you the truth, I am not sure what MIR is. If we go by its name, it is a leftist revolutionary movement. What that means? I am not sure. Unfortunately, I have not seen any kind of document where the party spells out its agenda. We would have to ask Jaime Paz Zamora, I guess. Now, if we go by who has MIR collaborated with, you said it. MIR has collaborated with ADN and MNR, among others. Does that make MIR center right? you bet.

In my opinion, MIR is a political butterfly. It has long ago left its revolutionary and leftist roots to establish itself as a systemic and traditional political force.

Is it possible for MIR to ally with MAS and MSM? I think it is certainly possible. I think, if anything, MIR has proven to be a very flexible party. However, there is a slight problem. MIR is in a kind of identity crisis right now. There is a wing within the party that wants change (led by Erica Brockman, as far as I can see). This wing wants to change leadership. They have partly succeeded in their quest because Paz Zamora will not be this elections' candidate. In that sense the leader will be Vaca Diez. Now, I am thinking parhaps it would be advantageous for MIR to ally with someone like MSM or other leader from El Alto. This would bring more benefit in the ballots than allying with MAS. Plus, Vaca Diez must be bitter with Evo.....right?

As far as MBL, I have not heard anything indicating they would leave their cozy relationship with MNR. I suppose it's possible.

But, I would say, as a final point, Bolivian political parties tend to be centered around a charismatic leader and not (as in the US) around issues. That makes it difficult for politically like minded parties to ally with one another. It all depends on how well is the relationship between the leaders.

Fredrik Lindqvist said...

Thanks for your answer.

Are there any news about Mesa and Quiroga. Can both of the stand in the elections?

If we look at the relationship between MBL and MNR we can also notice thar Sucre mayor Aidée Nava was one the mayors who demanded that Vaca Diez should not became president. She is also a part of the Frente Amplio.

By the way, if we look at the Frente Amplio, it´s mayors were very strong i the local elections. However i guess that the bolivians look on the presidential elections in a diffrent way. As far that as I know MSM has already allied itself with MAS, making a crack in the FA.

Mayors outside the FA and not belonging to ADN, MIR or MBL are:
-J. Paredes of El Alto (Plan Progresso ex MIR Centrist?). He can be a partner to either MIR, UN and ASXII?

-P. Fernandez of Santa Cruz (FAJT Ex. MNR, Centreright) and his allies in Oscar Vargas (MUP Ex. NFR)He can be a partner to either MIR, UN and ASXII?

Miguel said...

Yes, one can hypothesize all kinds of combinations because, I think, most parties hover around the spectrum's center.

As far as Paredes (PP), I think he is geographically handicaped. He is very popular in El Alto, at least he was until the civic organizations started calling him traitor. Support in that region can go up and down with much volatility. Paredes has to be very careful when he looks for an alliance.

I tell you, the crisis that the traditional parties are going through is very deep. It is to the point that the very life of the parties are called into question.

It is interesting to observe that since the implementation of political decentralization (1994) the political parties have had to adapt to this new system and decentralize themselves. Or perhaps adapt to a new political reality.