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?


mcentellas said...

Good overview. I think this election will completely alter Bolivian political landscape. There are now much more complicated electoral strategies to think about (throwing the prefectures into the mix). We'll see what happens. My money's on Tuto to win (but one never knows, the election WILL be decided in parliament, as always).

Fredrik Lindqvist said...


I am wondering if you have looked at the election results in the last two elections (general in 2002 and municpial in 2004)? Since the presidential election will be determined in the congres, it is important to analyze how the election to the congress really works. A I have understood the largest party in a given province will take more or less all the uninominal seats in the chamber of deputies and two of three senators. But of course it all depends on what parties that will participate.

Miguel said...

The distribution of seats is spelled out in the Electoral Code. You can take a look at a nice Java presentation at the CNE's website. Just look for the results of the 2002 elections and scroll down to the bottom. There you'll see a link that reads: Proceso de asignacion de escanos.

This link is very informative.

As for looking at previous elections, I have written a post recently. Here is the link:

In this post I argue about Evo's chances of getting elected, but also talk about the uninominal case as a yard stick for the upcoming elections.

If you read it let me know what you thought about it.

To Miguel: I think you are right, this autonomic route will forever change not politics in Bolivia but life in general. I hope is for the better. In this context, prefectures will become very important. I just don't know yet what will be the effect on the ground braking decentralization process implemented in 1994.

Fredrik Lindqvist said...


I will spend a couple of hours this weekend analyzing the results from the general elections in 1997, 2002 and the muncipial elections in 2004. Lets see what I can found out of it. My first observation is that the strongest alcaldes are (highest percents in the muncipial elections of 2004) in provinces were MAS (or EVO) made a strong showing in the 2002 elections.

Miguel said...

Sounds interesting. Dong forget to tell us what you find out.

Fredrik Lindqvist said...

As far as I have understand the elections system works like this. In each province there are three senate seats. The party that gets most votes in the (presidential?)election in a ceratin province gets 2 seats and the party that is second gets one seat. Total 9 provinces times three = 27.
The champer of deputies har elected under a mixed system. First we have a first past the post part (the "uninominal"). The we have another part which gives seats to parties who got wotes but no seats in the first past the post system. This proportional part is the "plurinominal" part.

This implies that the senate seats and the uninominal seats (therefore also plurinominal) will go to partis which have a great local strength.

Since the FA will be based only on the local strength of the alcaldes it will steal votes in provinces were the alcaldes are strong. Mainly in La Paz (stelaing seats from MAS, NFR and MNR), Chuquisaca (stealing seats from MAS, MNR and MIR), Cochabamba (stealing seats from MAS, NFR and MNR), Oruro (stealing seats from MAS, NFR, MNR) and Potosi (stelign seats from MAs, MNR and MIR).

MIR will keep its seats in Tarija, MNR might loose some other centre-right parties such as UN and ASXXI. In Santa Cruz MNR, MIR and NFR will loose seats to other other centre-right parties such as UN and ASXXI. In Beni and Pando MNR and MIR might loose some seats to ASXXI.

But it all will depend on:
1) Wich candidates that will be on the slate and if these candidates have a party wich supports them. Will FA, UN and ASXXI be contesteing.
2) The strength of the alcaldes in the national politics. How many seats might they steal (mainly from MAS)?
3) How much seats parties like MNR and NFR will loose. I think that MIR will loose less than these two.

Miguel said...

Bolivia's system was designed in order to prevent that large parties get over-represented in Congress. At the same time, the system gives (at least tries) minor parties representation in Congress. This way, Congress is not dominated by a couple of parties.

Now, whether this is good or bad, it's been a long standing debate.

Fredrik Lindqvist said...

Has anyone seen any polls with René Joaquino as an option?

The latest polls indicates a that the left will loose the election big time.

Quiroga ASXXI (right) 22 %
Medina UN (centre-right) 16 %
Moraels MAS (left) 15 %
MIR-candidates (center) 7 %
Durán MNR (centre-right) 3 %
Reyes Villa NFR (centre-right) 3 %

Miguel said...

I haven't seen one yet. But I am sure it is comming.

eduardo said...

No one knows who Joaquino is...yet. Bolivian politics are always the recycled old names. It's tough to make a name. I would venture to guess that Evo Morales is the most well known name in the country, right?

Fredrik Lindqvist said...

If you read about Bolivia i foreign newspapers and other media you can get a picture of that "the old" parties are almost gone at that the left is on a roll. However it does not seem so if you look at the different opinion polls. Ok, Quiroga and Mednian has their new parties now. But still Quroga is a former president (EX. ADN) and Medina a former minister (EX. MIR).

Do you have the same opinion?

Miguel said...

I would tend to agree. Although, Tuto Quiroga and Doria Medina are very high in the polls.

One mistake these polls, i.e. Apoyo, are making is to plainly overlook the country side. They keep on surveying the people in the urban areas thinking they can substitute the indigenous in the country with the indigenous in the city. In my opinion, these two groups have different necessities and demands and thus political preferences.

I also think that Bolivia is the latest example of Latin American politics turning to the left. The fact that there are so many leftist parties competing in December's elections shows that political preferences have gone left, not just in Bolivia.

Fredrik Lindqvist said...

Ok. What is new on the party-front? I read something about a a new left-wing party, that Roberto de la Cruz and his group M-17, would initiate a new party called Social Movement for Liberation (M-Sol). The we have the centre-left Frente Amplio of the Alcaldes. What about other left-wing parties, such as MIP and MBL will they stand in these elections?

I would be very happy if someone could give me information regarding which parties that will be on the slate in the congressional elections!

Miguel said...

For that I think we are going to have to wait a bit longer. De la Cruz's organization already has a certificate of recongition by the CNE but they, as with the rest of the parties, are still in search of leadership.

One might even say, since it is so difficult, that there is a leadership crisis in Bolivia.