April 29, 2006

Approval Ratings

MABB © ®

At the risk of being redundant, I include the graphs La Razón published abut the latest results of the popularity contest in Bolivian politics. There is a marked descent of the approval for President Morales, and a slight drop on Garcia Linera's popularity.

This is a fluctuation over the last three moths. Now, I don't know much about polls, but it seems to me that a change like in the case of Morales' is not too significant. Three months is a very short time. Who knows, in the next two months it could be jumping 40 points. Judging for what we can see here.

However, if these polls have some effect on the population, can we expect the approval rating of Morales continue its downward trend? The potential implications for his plans to design a "new" Bolivia could end up truncated. That is, if these numbers translate into votes.

But, once again, as we've seen in the last elections, these polls don't really give a relatively accurate picture. It could be that Morales' poll numbers go down, but his votes en up giving his party a majority in the assembly. Main point, who knows!

To continue on the last point, the Parliament has taken up two issues relevant for the coming Constituent Assembly (CA). The one issue is that of the "depurados" or people who for one reason or another were disqualified to vote. The government wants to issue a "one time" general amnesty for all the disqualified to allow them to vote in the CA. The opposition (Podemos, UN and MNR) in the Senate have expressed their intentio to block that measure because they argue doing so would open the doors to very questionable results. The vote is still coming, but as of now, it looks like the "depurados" will stay out of the voting places.

The other issue is that of state campaign financing. The government wants to do away with it, with the motto: "unnecessary spending". Of course, the MAS relies on contributions from their bases (i.e. member organizations). So they say! The opposition parties are left in the cold because the main bulk of their financing comes from the state. So they are putting up a fight in Congress. The issue is not resolved yet, but it seems that state campaign financing will continue, albeit with less money. For now, the number being thrown around is half of the previous sum (Bs. 57 million).


mcentellas said...

I think Evo overplayed his hand a little these three months. As a syndicalist, he's used to being able to force members to pay their dues, etc. But that doesn't translate well to being a head of state. In the end, it made him look corrupt (stealing money from the state to finance his personal/partisan political ambitions).

The problem is that the more Evo tries to grab power, the more his opposition will tighten up against him (in parliament, in the prefectures). He can't try to imitate Hugo Chavez; he just doesn't have the same kind of "tactical" situation that Chavez had when he consolidated his position. The traditional parties are in disarray, but they formed together into a solid bloc (PODEMOS) that *can* push back.

MB said...

So solid Podemos is not. In recent times I've seen UN can swing pretty good from one side to the other. The fear is if the opposition cannot get a hold of themselves and lay the assembly for MAS in a silver platter.

But, I have to say, for the first time I am seeing the possibility of a brake up, if Morales comes to dominate the assembly and designs the country to his liking. I would say, the people in Santa Cruz will not stand for it.

eric said...

the reason that the depurados should be allowed to vote is that this is not any old election.

it would be ridiculous to disenfranchise 800,000 people because they were too lazy, sick, out of the country, or uneducated to vote in a previous election.

because this election is about refounding the Country more inclusively.

Podemos hasn't acted significantly as opposition yet. They simply squabble about stupid, trivial issues. And, like the mainstream media, they worry too much about what Evo SAYS. What he is doing, is exactly what the 10 points of the MAS program said. And at this rate, MAS and other revolutionary forces will dominate the Assembly because it is the WILL of the people. And the oligarchs in Santa Cruz will watch dumbfounded as the PEOPLE of Santa Cruz support change.

eric said...

remember, 30% of Santa Cruz ALREADY VOTED FOR EVO.

And all this talk about Morales dominating the assembly is very misleading in my humble opinion.

The CNE is widely trusted and transparent, and the Assembly will be electeed by open, universal vote.

If Morales' party dominates it, this is the WILL of the People. That is how representative democracy works.

mcentellas said...

I didn't meant to suggest that Podemos is an "institutionalized" party, only that the center/center-right consolidated intself into a single electoral vehicle (more or less) in a way that the left was unable to do between 1985-2002 (Podemos got more votes than MAS in 2002). So that says something.

The problem w/ the MAS solution to the depurados, is that it could easily be used for fraudulent ballot-stuffing. Which is clearly teh intention, if it's going to let ANYONE vote w/ or w/o papers. The whole point of registering people to vote is that it keeps people from "voting often" (to use a Chicago expression).

As for what is "the will of the people" ... I'm skeptical. First of all, I don't think anyone can pretend to know, or understand, or hope to represent "the will of the people" (as if it were some magical singular entity). There's at least two centuries worth of philosophical debates on whether such a thing as a "will of the people" exists, whether it can be known/measured, or whether it should be sovereign (should 9 white be allowed to lynch one black under the principle of majority rule?), etc. So I won't rehash it.

In a few months, Bolivians will cast votes for representatives in a constituent assembly. millions of voters, w/ millions of different interests/ideas/hopes/fears/etc will vote in ways we can't reduce to a simple "will of the people" v. "enemy of the people" dichotomy.

MB said...

Well, first of all, I think we are mixing two terms here. Representative democracy refers and suggests an institutionalized political representative party system (enphasis on system). What Eric is suggesting is more like direct democracy, where the people are directly involved (enphasis on directly involved).

Now, while I agree that it is kind of ridiculous to exclude people from voting in "any kind" of democracy, unfortunately the system has to be safeguarded against fraud or other kinds of irregularities. How does one prevent people from voting two or three times? or even preventing dead people from voting? criminals? people who are told who to vote for? etc.

There has to be some kind of control over who is able to vote. From that will come out the number of people who are willing to vote. So in this sense the democratic electoral system works well (according to me).

Next, the media is right on worrying about what Evo says and does. It is an important function they are fulfilling. Personally, I think people shoud be worried about what Evo and MAS are trying to do. If the premise is to write a social contract which includes everyone, even the former corrupt political elite has to be taken into account. A social contract for Everyone, that is the aim, right? Well, if Evo Morales and his MAS get a majority of representatives in the assembly (at least 2/3), which is clearly what they are looking for, that will not be representative anymore. In fact, everyone has to agree with this, it would end up excluding and in the end it'll be equally illegitimate as the other constitutions written by the so called corrupt elites.

That is why it is important for an opposition, the media, other parts of civil society, to act as a balancing point against the government.

This is so Bolivia does not end up, first like Venezuela and thus playing right into the hands of Chavez.

Now, if we get into the philosophical questions such as whether there is a will of the people or not, or the debate on the tyranny of the majority, we will be arguing until the next century. :-)

mcentellas said...

Exactly! What MB said. Too often people get sucked into the lovely "power to the people" rhetoric, w/o looking into the consequences/implications of that.

For a quick primer, I recommend Robert Dahl's "On Democracy."

eduardo said...

I think the 80% rating was not accurate, 4 out of 5 Bolivians? However, he had nowhere to go but down.

I'd be interesting to see the role of Samuel Doria Medina in the next year or so. He banked on being the alternate choice in the 2005 elections, but really couldn't muster enough votes.

It's interesting that many voters in Cochabamba said they voted for SDM, but I suspect that they voted for Evo or for Tuto but did not want to admit for the stigma that a vote for each would bring.

The head of UN's congressional brigade qualified the Evo presidency as fascist. SDM was quick to respond saying that he adamantly did not agree with that characterization.

SDM is running for a place the Constituent Assembly table, hoping that he continues this alternate choice. PODEMOS is highly fragmented. One of PODEMOS' congressmen in the Gran Chaco region is openly for the creation of a new department. The PODEMOS opposition really has no proposal for an alternate way, which does not acknowledge that the system that many of the presided over really did not help the majority of Bolivians.