September 30, 2005

Another Crisis Fast Approaching

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Another crisis might be fast approaching due to the Constitutional Court's decision to find in favor of the Santa Cruz legislative faction. This decision ordered Congress to redistribute the seats in Congress in favor of Santa Cruz. According to the constitution at least half of the seats in the Bolivian Congress must be distributed proportionally using the last census numbers. The results of the last census in 2001 account for a massive emigration of the population eastward to Santa Cruz city. It is because of this phenomenon that Santa Cruz is due to gain four seats in Congress at the expenses of La Paz, Potosi and Oruro.

This situation has had a serious effect on the December 4 general elections. Because the seats have to be redistributed, Congress had a window of about a month to act and just follow the Constitution. However, this is easier said than done. The political factions of La Paz, Potosi and Oruro have decided not to abide by the rules and fight for their congressional seats. As a result Congress is currently in a stalemate not being able to deal with the issue with the necessary expediency. This uncertainty has brought the elections into question.

The ramifications are larger. On the one side, the political parties, which are in the middle of their political campaigns, have reacted negatively to the possibility that the elections be delayed. Two political parties, USTB and FREPAB, have stopped completely their electoral campaigns. Tuto Quiroga has repeatedly voiced the necesity to hold the elections on the date agreed. Doria Medina and Evo Morales have also expressed their expectations that the elections will be kept on track.

However, things don't seem to be going well. El Diario reports that Congress is speaking already of delay, presidential succession, or for President Rodriguez to stay beyond the 180 days the constitution allows. These are dangerous waters because many of the most radical elements in Bolivian society are expecting the elections to renew the leadership in Bolivia. If the elections are postponed, it might be the case (I'd say it will be the case) that a new social crisis explodes in the country. And this time the consequences are not easy to be discerned.

Adding to that fear are comments like Evo Morales' comments saying (almost instigating) that if the elections were to be delayed, the so called "social movements" will come out on the streets and revolt. Morales accuses the civic leaders of Santa Cruz and, not the least, the Constitutional Court of acting in concordance to keep what he calls the "neoliberals" in power.

Others, like the civic and social movements in El Alto accuse the wing of the MNR aligned with former president Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada of purposely destabilizing the country. These "activists" also accuse the Constitutional Court of acting against their movements.

This is a very volatile situation and period in which Bolivia is going in. The tempers are flaring, accusations are being thrown right and right and frustrations with the political elite is reaching a critical level. The people in Congress are clearly not acting in the best interest of the country.

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