February 27, 2006

Do the People Trust the State?

MABB © ®

This has become a big problem for the Bolivian government. The little graph published in La Razon shows how much the people distrust the judicial branch of government and speaks volumes on the issue of legitimacy or lack thereof for the institutions of the state.

The graph shows, comparatively, support or confidence for the judicial branch in the years 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006. It gives a choice of very trustworthy, somewhat trustworthy, not at all trustworthy.

The striking result is that the judicial branch scores as not at all trustworthy. In all the years the scores lie between 64% (2006) and 84% (2002).

Of course, one just has to keep in mind that the Apoyo, Opinion y Mercado survey was, once again, conducted only on the biggest cities in Bolivia. These cities are La Paz, El Alto, Cochabamba and Santa Cruz (also known as the "eje truncal" or the main axis).

I have been arguing that these kind of surveys hardly represent the opinion of the population in general. The survey concetrates in urban areas where there are a lot of problems and a lot of people who are disenchanted with the system. It does not take into account the people who live in the country side.

Nevertheless, the outcome is astounding for democrats alike. The legitimacy of the democratic system seems to be threatened to the core. All institutions, the Congress, the judicial, the presidency, the policy, the military, the political parties, etc., have little support amongst the population.

The question coming to mind is, is this a crisis of the democratic system or is it a realignment?


Marcos Gonzales Harsha said...


I wanted to say that I've very much enjoyed reading your blog since I came upon it in December of 2005. Your reporting is well informed and I appreciate your efforts to educate the world about Bolivian current events.
I was wondering about your last question: How does the lack of trust in state institutions constitute a "realignment" ?? I think one of the most striking features of the survey is the dramatic increase in the "somewhat trustworthy" category and corresponding decrease in the "not at all trustworthy" category. It appears that Evo's new style of government and popular mandate have restored some trust in the general population...though still not enough to maintain a strong, functioning democracy.

eduardo said...

Sadly, that is where some of the sentiment for "communal justice" comes into play. People do not feel that they can trust going through the system. Many people who get their cars stolen, never report it because it means having to go through the system and end up paying bribes and other "fees".

Miguel said...

Marcos. Thank you for visiting. I am always glad to see that my efforts don't go to waist. :-)

To address you question, you have to read the question correctly. It says:

The question coming to mind is, is this a crisis of the democratic system or is it a realignment?

It is an either or question. And I raise the idea of realignment because in my mind, there was a realignment of forces in Bolivian politics. The worn-out elite was replaced by the social movement elite. This, as a result of its efforts to gain power.

I would also say that perhaps the office of the presidency has regained some trust as a result of Evo comming to power, but the lack of trust on the rest of the institutions is, to say the least, alarming for a democrat.

I agree with you when you say that this trust might no be enough to maintain a strong, functioning democracy.

As Eduardo highlights, the so called communal justice is but a sample of how the state is not trusted in some areas. Although, historically, that has some explanations but lack of legitimacy is part of the recipe.