August 14, 2006

Bits of Info on the Constituent Assembly

MABB © ®

As you well know, the Bolivian Constituent Assembly (CA) process is well on its way. In June 2, 2006 Bolivians elected their assembly members in a well publicized and closely observed elections. Just as a reminder, there are 255 members elected and officially recongnized by the electoral court. As the results show, President Evo Morales' party, MAS, got the simple majority, but not the absolute majority, as it was their goal. The overall structure of the assembly will be dominated by MAS, but can be kept in check by PODEMOS, UN, and MNR, CN and AS (the other political groups present in the CA with some significant weight). As we can see in the graphic above, the faces of the assembly are very diverse and representative. Contrary to what I thought, there are people of all walks of life, street vendors, students, professionals and scholars.

Recently, and after a long period of negotiation, the parties agreed to make up the leadership of the CA. At the head, we find an indigenous woman, Silvia Lazarte, who has experience in union leadership and organization, and has close ties with Evo Morales.

There are already several proposals from diverse organizations. Some samples can be found here.

One of the current issues being talked about is MAS' proposal on internal regulations. Morales and his party, MAS, have expressed their preference of using a simple majority vote when voting for individual issues, and using the 2/3 rule (mandated by the law) to vote for the entire text. I am not sure what is the use of this strategy. Say, every individual issue is voted by simple majority. This would mean that MAS has not trouble at all writing the constitution by itself. Since it has the simple majority rule in the CA, and controls the presidency and other important positions. This would alienate the other groups and would put them into a position of radicalization. What would happen then when the vote to approve the whole text comes to the assembly floor? In this instance, it needs 2/3 of the vote. The only way, I can think of, MAS can get away writing the constitution alone is if it gains the support of ALL other organizations present in the assembly. And that is a serious, we'll see!

Another issue is the urging from the part of the government to the social movements, unions and other organizations, to watch closely the CA. And if the assembly members do not do as they are told, there will be trouble. Special attention should be paid to the opposition. Dangerous game, that's all I have to say. Additionally, Morales wants to put the CA above all, even above the current constitution. His argument is that the constitution cannot be subordinated to anything and it should be supreme.

Above all, the process seems to be going well. The CA will meet in Sucre, Bolivia's capital. The president and vicepresidencies, and all other positions are ready. The assembly members are too. They just need to start the work. We'll keep a close eye.