November 19, 2005

Bolivian Elections: The Inevitable Outcome

MABB © ®
As I have been saying since many months now (no prediction, no foretelling, no divination, just plain observation) the Bolivian elections are on track and headed toward its inevitable outcome. The outcome will be that Jorge Quiroga and Evo Morales will face-off in Congress, as the Constitution clearly states. It will be there where the new president of Bolivia will be elected.

So, as one could expect and as the elections aproach on December 18, the topic of the exchange between the candidates is slowly changing to include speculations about who will ally with who. The press and many analysts speculated that an alliance between Jorge Quiroga and Samuel Doria would be natural. The most important aspect supporting this speculation is that both of them are pretty much in the same area of the political spectrum. Whereas, an alliance between Evo Morales and Samuel Doria would not be easy to put together and much less would be a MAS-Podemos alliance. In this context, Doria has become a very important player. Everyone is looking for a signal showing with which political party will UN go to government to.

In recent times, though, I have observed Samuel Doria leaning more towards the left rather than the right. For example, Samuel has been talking about nationalizing Bolivia's natural resources and the redistribution of land. These outbursts of Samuel, I attributed them to his party's efforts to attract more votes. However, these comments opened the, small but much real possibility, of Samuel forming an alliance with Evo, thus enabling Evo to become president. It is not crazy to consider an outcome like this. I think it would do wonders for Samuel's party in terms of support and legitimacy. But, he must have different poll numbers than me because, recently he came out and rules an alliance with Evo Morales right out. He said "I will not make any deal with Evo".

Today, Samuel and his vice-president, Carlos Dabdoub, came out again and made more of these absolute statements, which I think they will have to "eat" after December 18. The press quoted Dabdoub as saying "UN will not vote neither for Podemos nor for MAS in case it comes out third". Samuel is convinced, at least for now, that Quiroga and Morales are polarizing the country and that UN will be government. In his oppinion this polarization is not good for Bolivia. So naturally, he offers an alternative.

In essence, the refusal of Samuel Doria not to commit to an alliance with any of the leading parties could potentially result in a new Congressional crisis because it would be impossible to elect a new president. This deadlock would be desastrous for the country. However, it is too early to speak of crisis or deadlock. I am assuming that Samuel is being a good democrat and he is fighting for every single vote he can get out there. His seemingly inflexible position might be a strategy to gain voters. After all, as candidate, one must project decisiveness and conviction on one's candidacy. He must think, these comments are helping him gain votes. Deep down, Doria thinks (has to think) he has a chance at the presidency. Nonetheless, I would expect him to eat his words and pick a side after the elections. One thing is clear, he will come out being the most important person in the aftermath of the elections.

Now, one more speculation. Let's not count Samuel out of the presidency just yet. What happens if there is really a deadlock in Congress?, and MAS and Podemos, both need Samuel to make a majority. Assuming Samuel hangs on to his pants long enough, if there is no consensus in Congress on whether Evo or Tuto should be the next president, a different solution could involve Samuel as president as consensus candidate. I don't remember well, but I think this has happened when Paz Zamora became president. Now, for that to happen many things have to come together. One, MAS and Podemos cannot make a grand alliance (more or less proven). Two, there has to be a deadlock in Congress. Three, UN has to hold on and not budge in. Four, pressure has to be tremendous on Congress (time must run out). Five, UN's votes have to be a significant number. Six, MAS and Podemos have to ceede their polarizing positions and agree for a neutral one. What I am saying is, if the conditions are right and Samuel plays his cards well, he could end up sitting in the presidency and not Evo or Tuto.

While it is almost certain that Quiroga and Morales will face-off in Congress to see who gets the presidency, the decision is practically in Doria's hands. Samuel Doria will be the "president maker". He's unique position gives him the power to choose the next president of Bolivia. Unless, of course, he decides to make himself president. Then, all bets are off. But, before any of the above happens, we have to get to December 18 and see the Bolivian people go to vote. These elections have to be clean and legitimated. After that happens, we can start speculating all we want about what alliance will be formed.