September 03, 2006

Alarm in the Bolivian Constituent Assembly Process

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There is a current state of alarm in Bolivia. The barely month old Constituent Assembly process has entered into a crisis. At the heart of the problem is the approval of the code of internal regulations, and more specifically, the parts dealing with the nature of the assembly and the voting procedures.

In the last weeks, a polarization of positions has been brewing at the CA. On the one side, the MAS constituents, together with the government and many smaller constituent groups aligned with the government and MAS, have been trying to push for the CA to be declared "originating" and for all the decisions to be voted with an absolute majority. On the other side, the opposition (Podemos, UN, MNR and CN), and other organizations such as the civic committees, have been arguing for the CA to follow the rule of law and for all the decisions to be taken by a 2/3 vote rule. These issues have proven to be more polarizing thant they seemed with the government and the MAS constituents digging in their heels and not bowing to compromise, and the opposition accusing the government of wanting to control power.

On Friday, las week, MAS decided to go for it and force the approval of the internal regulations code. The MAS, who holds the presidency of the CA, started the procedure to start the voting process by reading the text of the code. Some members of the opposition got up and walked to the front of the assembly where the presidency is seated and the text was being read (the CA is taking place in a theater) to try to stop it. In that instant one of the members of MAS (Roman Loayza) tried to clear the area, and before he could do anything he made a false step and fell 2 meters (6.5 feet) down to the pit. In light of the chaos, the opposition decided to leave. However, the MAS members decided to continue with the vote and they approved the code with 139 votes out of 255.

As a result, the parties have radicalized even more. The president yesterday, in a speech, asked the people to rise and defend the assembly process from the opposition. Meanwhile, several organized indigenous groups decided to go to Sucre to observe the CA from a close distance. Many threats have been issued to the assembly members, if they don't do what they are told to by the "people". At the same time, the opposition has decided to meet in Santa Cruz. To that meeting are also going the civic committees of Tarija, Pando, Beni and Santa Cruz. There is a real antagonist air in this meeting, because the most radical position would be to seced from the country if the government doesn't stop its maneuvers to control power.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

I posted somewhere (I think on this web site) that MAS would try to change the 2/3 approval process to a simple majority. It is very similar to what Chavez did in Venezuela with the National Assembly there and is a natural way to assume "democratic rule" of the country.

Miguel said...

It's not for nothing that Chavez is Evo's buddy. I am sure he gets "friend's advice" on those matters.

Muzhik said...

I don't understand what MAS is thinking...even if they approve all the individual proposals w/ a simple majority, they will still need 2/3 of the CA in order to pass the final document. I agree that Evo and his team is getting advice almost exclusively from Chavez, Inc. because Evo and his people have no experience governing and, as the previous two posts mentioned, MAS' current actions are strikingly similar to what happened in Venezuela.

miguel said...

Very keen observation. My take is that once the new social contract looks the way MAS, Evo and Chavez wants it to look like, and it comes to the last vote (approval), it is going to be a whole new game. The negotiations will be about one point and not about several. I think, MAS' strategy will be to make a last push at the end and try to pass the whole constitution at once. The principle is "divide and conquer". In this case, the vote.