July 11, 2005

The Process Moves Along

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The process is moving right along. That is what can be said about Bolivia's efforts to get out of the political and social crisis it went through in the last few months. Congress has finally made way for the general elections and the elections for prefects to carry on. It also has set a date when the autonomic referendum and the elections for constituents are supposed to happen. These decisions address the demands of the social groups whos protests brought the country into a deep crisis.

As mentioned in an earlier post, the general elections and elections for prefects are supposed to be held on the second Sunday of December 2005. This was a historical decision, not just because deep divisions between the traditional parties had to be put aside to come to an agreement, but because those bitter divisions were able to be overcome due to the tremendous pressure the Congress was under steming from the protesting social sectors. In a way, the events of June 10, when a majority of congressmen and congresswomen went through a traumatic siege in Sucre and, according to some accounts, they felt their livelyhoods were seriously being threatened by the protestors, were a decisive factor to "influence" their decisions. Perhaps those events proved to be a sort of reality check for Congress. As a result, the traditional parties, including anti-systemic parties like MAS, were "helped" to reach decisions which will move the process further.

A particular problem was that of the elections of prefects. This problem placed a serious test on the constitutionality of the actions of the government. Former President Mesa, in a desperate attempt to save his presidency, called for prefect elections on August 12 by issuing a presidential decree. The legality of this decree however was called into serious question. According to the constitution, there was not provision for the elections of prefects. In fact, these were supposed to be appointed by the executive. However, now since the Constitution was amended (article 109) to allow for the election of prefects, the new laws passed become legal and constitutional. So the date for the prefect elections becomes December 11th.

Interestingly enough, the process for the prefect elections has been going on inspite all the problems on the table. The Electoral Court (CNE) has reported there are currently 38 eligible candidates, of which, Sucre, La Paz, Oruro and Tarija have each 4, Cochabamba and Santa Cruz each have 5, Potosi has 6 and Beni and Pando each have 3 candidates.

On the other sensitive topic of the autonomic referendum, the Santa Cruz Civic Committee and the Provisional Autonomic Assembly (the body in charge of carrying out the referendum in case the government did not do it) expressed their acceptance of the decision. That is, they will stop their actions an will wait for next year's referendum planned on July. This decision gives the government more room to breath and addresses one of the sources of division, not just in Congress, but throughout the nation.

One last aspect of the recent decisions of Congress is the holding of general elections. This will symbolize, at least, the total renewal of the political class. Now, that total renewal will take place, I doubt it very much. I would say with a certain degree of confidence that the same politicians will come back. However, what I wanted to highlight is the fact that the term of service of the current Congress is being abruptly shortened. It should have ended on 2007, but now it will end two years earlier. That is a little particular to me, because after all these people were elected.

Nonetheless, the process is moving along. The general elections are happening on December and the political parties as well as other social and civic organizations are getting ready to participate. Congress is tackling issue after issue (surprisingly) moving along. The executive is intent on fulfilling its task, i.e. carry out general elections. If things keep going this way, Bolivia might just come out of this crisis a bit more stable.

Note: There was a bit of confusion about the date of the elections, but according to the Electoral Court's official dates, the elections will be held on December 4th and not the 11th as I wrote before.