April 03, 2007

The Assembly: Fourteen Months After

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This nice La Razón graph shows us how has the Constituent Assembly changed internally in the time it has been in progress. Even though the power balance has not changed much, MAS (had 137 members) is still the strongest political force followed by PODEMOS (had 60 members), gradual changes can be perceived. For example, on the side of the opposition, the graph shows a loss of 2 members for PODEMOS and 3 members for CN, and UN lost one member. In the same manner, on the other side of the isle, MAS and ASP lost one member each. The loss of a member does not necessarily mean the change of sides, some of these people declared themselves independent. However, currently and according to La Razón, the MAS side has 155 votes, which leaves the opposition with 100 votes. Let's just remember that the opposition is not made up of the 100 votes because we have to take into account the independents, and the fact that not everyone in the opposition is on the same boat.

Nevertheless, 155 votes is a commanding lead, but not necessarily enough to write the constitution as Evo Morales would like to do. MAS has to reach the 2/3 hurdle now to approve any article of the new constitution, and that means it has to have 192 votes. In this climate of mistrust and animosity, I can imagine it would be extraordinary to achieve the feat of winning 37 more votes in favor of MAS' plans. MAS' best chances are with the other micro-forces such as AAI, APB and AS. These groups have shown themselves sympathetic to MAS' plans before. Then of course, since these are not enough, MAS would have to attack the opposition ranks by talking to MIR, MNR and UN (it is already doing so as we speak). These forces, altogether, have 26 votes, added to the 10 afore mentioned make 36, one vote just short of 37. This means that it is inevitable that some PODEMOS votes would have to defect to MAS, if Morales is to fulfill his promise.

This situation makes it difficult for MAS to go ahead with its goals to re-write a new social contract and re-found a new Bolivia, more to its preferences. That is the reason why, now confronted with a new challenge, MAS is taking steps to turn around the political climate by announcing its preference to have new general elections next year after the new constitution is ready. Additionally, the electoral machinery of Morales has realized that most of more than 400,000 16 and 17 year olds in Bolivia would vote for MAS in 2008, therefore the government is pushing the Congress to make a new law to allow the vote from 16 years up.

These two moves would first increase Morales' chances to get higher than 53% of the votes in the general elections. Second, it places enormous pressure to the assembly to open the possibility to allow Morales be re-elected again in 2008.