November 16, 2006

Democracy?

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The lastest efforts from the government to further their agenda is a proposed bill to controll the prefectural office. As you know, Bolivia's Prefects are the heads of state governments, similar to Governors in the US. Since last December these figures have enjoyed a certain power of independence against the government. According to modifications to the law made during the 2005 crisis, the Prefects started being elected rather than being appointed by the President, as it was the law before. This status brought them more responsibilities and at the same time more independence, which translated into political power.

At the moment, and as a result of last December's elections, there are newly elected Prefects in each of the nine departments. As the graph on the left shows, only three are militants of MAS. The rest are considered to be in the opposition. This situation is not confortable for the government and thus is trying to change it. Now, the Morales government, and more specifically the Vice-minister of Decentralization, wants to propose an amendment to the Administrative Decentralization Law. Such amendment would introduce a mechanism to "interpellate" those Prefects who do not "behave". So, if there is a complain against the Prefect, the problem would be taken to the President, whom in turn would ask the Congress to "Interpellate" the Prefect. If the interpellation is sustained, the Prefect would be forced to resign.

The question is then, is there a need for such an amendment? I think, if the Prefects were elected by popular vote, and if there is a need to somehow exert some control over them in the name of democracy, then periodic elections will do the trick. No need to institutionalize some kind of control mechanism. After all, they are voted by popular vote. What's more democratic than that?

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Bolivia is changing a lot lately. The prefects have a great protagonism, since are now elected. But to be elected is not enough to be democratic. There will be a lot more of changes, because the situation is quite new. VOte is just a mechanism, is not sinonim of democracy.

mcentellas said...

Because of the current situation, "interpellation" most likely means "purge" of anti-MAS prefects. A better option would be to have either a popular recall mechanism or (better yet) a regional elected legislative (or consultative) assembly. There should be a system of checks & balances, but it should be regional -- not determined by the presidency (another single-person office).