February 25, 2006

Constituent Assembly

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Last Friday (February 24) the mixed commission (the parlamentary committee comprised by senators and deputies looking to write the first version of the bill calling to the Constitutional Assembiy (CA))passed the preliminary version of the CA bill. There was agreement among the representatives on 26 of the 29 articles. The issues left to be considered in the congressional plenum were: The number and the form of election of the representatives.

These two issues are the most problematic and divisive. There is basically two kinds of proposals. The government's proposal would require to elect assembly members per electoral disctrict. The other proposals dictate that assembly members should be electec taking account the departments and using some combination of proportional representation and set amount of seats based on groups to be represented.

There were more than 20 proposals submitted to the commission to be considered. The ones who carried more weight were:

  1. MAS proposed 210 constituents, three from each of the 68 circunscriptions (electoral disctricts).
  2. Podemos propesed 9 constituents in national circunscriptions, 70 uninominal constituents, 11 indigenous y 54 departmental constituents.
  3. Santa Cruz proposed the election of 155 constituents and places importance on the departmental level. The departments with less population would get one representative each (Pando, Beni, Tarija, Oruro, Chuquisaca y Potosí), 125 constituents would be distributed by department (La Paz, 35 circunscriptions; Santa Cruz, 31; Cochabamba, 22; Potosí, 11; Chuquisaca, 8; Oruro, 6; Tarija, 6; Beni, 5 y Pando one), where in each of the departments half of these representatives would be elected per circunscriptions and the rest by uninominal districts according to the 2001 sensus.
  4. Beni proposed 10 constituents per departament and 24 indigenous groups.
  5. Tarija proposed 15 members per departament.
  6. DDHH (the Human Rights office) proposed 2 members per departament, 2 per each uninominal circunscription, 9 per ethnic groups, 1 afro-Bolivian, 16 per uses y customs and 1 representing the handicapped.

According to the mixed commission, they looked at all of the proposed bills and developed a new bill incorporating many of the features of all proposals. As of right now, I couldn't find a version of this bill, so there is not much to talk about it. However, I do know that it incorporates some of the following characteristics, among other things:

On its article 3 it defines the CA as an independent legislative body not subjected to any state authority. It is expressly to reform the constitution. It will be voted by universal, direct and secret ballot.

Article 20 says the CA will be in session no less than 6 months, but no later than 1 year.

Article 22 says that the CA will end when the new social contract is approved. To be approved the document will need 2/3 of the votes.

Article 23 states that within 120 days of the document's approval the CA will call to a referendum to submit it to the approval of the population.

The major problems is that of the representation. Many departments with small populations like Pando, Beni, Tarija and Sucre argue that they should be represented in equal terms. The government's proposal is based on district representation. In the end there are two camps, the one suggested by the government, which seems doomed by now and the proposal to elect constituents by department. This discrepacy plays very close with the issue of regional disagreements.

One further problem is that of the autonomic referendum. The government and the Santa Cruz civic committee are diametrically opposed. The civic committee wants to make the referendum binding, while the government doesn't see the necessity.

The elections for constituents to the assembly is due to take place in July 2, and the CA is due to start working on August 6.

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