August 04, 2005

The Electoral Slate is Taking More Shape

MABB © ®

At less than five months from the December 4th national elections, the electoral field is getting less dense and more clear as days go by. Even though many political parties do not have their respective candidates for President and Vice-president, there are a handfull that are in a better stance. Also a new poll by Apoyo for the newspaper La Razon shows a preference for Tuto Quiroga over Doria Medina and Evo Morales.

Making a careful revision of the political arena, I find at least three parties with defined candidates for the presidency and one of them ready to start the campaign with a duo of candidates. This last party is the National Unity party (Unidad Nacional, UN) headed by cement industrialist and former MIR vice-president candidate in the 1997 elections, Samuel Doria Medina. Doria Medina chose as his vice-president candidate, former MIR militant and founder of the separatist movement Camba Nation (Nacion Camba), Carlos Dabdoub. The two candidates of UN gave a press conference in various cities outlining their programme and at the same time refuting allegations against Dabdoub's membership in Nacion Camba.

The other two parties, Evo Morales' MAS and new comer, Rene Joaquino's Frente Amplio (Ample Front, FA), are in the process of finding a vice-president candidate. Out of the two, it was no surprise that Evo Morales Aima would be running for president at the front of Movement Towards Socialism. What could turn to be a surprise is his choice for a running mate. Morales has expressed he is looking, with preference, a woman from the East who is identified with the social movements. At the same time he is open to accepting a strong candidate emanating from El Alto, which is the center of rebellion in current times. Joaquino, who's FA was born out of an alliance between Mayors of different cities (La Paz's Juan del Granado being the most prominent of them) is also courting a candidate from the East or from El Alto. Both want to get at least alliances with the civic leaders of El Alto.

It is also imperative highlight Jorge Quiroga's "project". The former president's political group is denominated Alianza Siglo XXI (21st Century Alliance, ASXXI). This new "project" has dual nature, it is a new comer in the sense that it was founded by a group of students supporters of Quiroga and that this will be the first time it participates in an election. At the same time it is also a systemic party because it has a candidate who has held the presidency and as such has participated in formulating the policies currently in place. He is also seen, by many, as part of the problem.

Concerning the traditional political parties, MIR, MNR, ADN and NFR, they are not ready yet. Out of the four, ADN is the party that has not had much activity. In essence, it is still in the process of finding a suitable candidate, after the defection of its former leader, Jorge Quiroga. The MNR and the NFR are also in search of candidates. The party suffering the most out of this situation is the MIR. This party continues to slip into the deepest crisis it has ever seen. Recently, the current leader and founder, Jaime Paz Zamora, expressed its opinion that his party should forget about the presidential elections and instead concentrate on departmental prefectures. Current contender for the leadership and would be candidate for president, Hormando Vaca Diez, qualified Zamora's comments as non-sense. Party bickering and bitter divisions continue to plague these parties. However, we would have to wait until after their conventions to count them out.

One interesting development is that some traditional political parties as well as some anti-systemic parties are preferring to concentrate on the elections for prefects rather than the national elections. As I mentioned earlier, Jaime Paz Zamora, leader of MIR, has expressed his desire for his party to concentrate to gain control of the Santa Cruz, La Paz and Tarija's prefectures. Similarly, the leader of Plan Progreso (Progress Plan, PP) and Mayor of El Alto, Jose Luis Paredes, has expressed his interest for his party to pursue some prefectural offices and concentrate in winning seats in Congress. In the same line, some leaders of MAS have said they will concentrate in winning seats in Congress.

This preferences by some parties highlights the importance of the prefectural elections, from now on. This rise in importance is due to the regional autonomic route Bolivia is taking as part of its re-inventing.

Notwithstanding, in some ways, it is politics as usual in La Paz. In the eve of the last session of this legislative year, the two major parties in Congress have agreed to maintain their 2002 pact which provides for the alternation of possitions of leadership in Congress. So therefore, next congress will have a MNR senator as president of the Senate and a MIR deputy as president of the lower chamber. This move represents both the reflection of power politics within the Congress and what is wrong in the legislative in the eyes of voters.

All in all, the process is taking more shape, with more and more parties announcing their respectives candidates and more and more alliances being formed. It is striking that this elections are shaping out to be one where the traditional systemic parties contend against the n.k.o.b. anti-systemic parties, on the one hand. On the other hand, there is a trend of concentrating more at the local level against the national level. I ask myself, is this last tendency a sort of decentralization of politics following the decentralization process implemented in 1994?