October 27, 2007

The Political Battle on the Constitutional Assembly and on the Constitutional Court

MABB © ®

Two things to highlight in this post, the fight to keep the Constitutional Assembly (CA) alive and the other fight to control the Constitutional Court (in Spanish, Tribunal Constitucional, TC). I'll start with the latter.

Yesterday, two of the TC magistrates resigned from their posts. The current President, Elizabeth Iniguez and the Decana (the oldest member), Martha Rojas sent their resignation letters to the Vice-president of Bolivia. They argued they took this drastic decision due to the constant harassment they were subject to by a member of the lower chamber, Gustavo Torrico (MAS). Earlier, four of the five magistrates were accused by President Morales of prevarication and the MAS faction tried to bring a legal action against them in Congress. The action passed in the lower chamber but was stopped by the opposition in the Senate.

It has been speculated that the government is trying to vacate the five posts in the TC so it can place its own people. If the government would be successful in it, it would gain important support for its agenda. The current TC has ruled in several occasions against the interests of the government and thus it has indeed been branded as biased and corrupt by President Morales.

The two resignations has plunged the TC into a severe institutional crisis. There are three magistrates left, of which two are ill. The TC, technically, only needs three judges of five to function. However, the institution is stretched to the limit. Two of the three remaining magistrates are substitute magistrates who took over the posts after the last round of resignations.

I guess I don't have to remind anybody how important it is the independence of the TC. If that wasn't the case, the whole constitutional process would politicize greatly. Justice would not be blind anymore.

The second development is the struggle over the moving of the capital which is having a severe impact on the viability of the CA.

The Consejo Politico (Political Council), as we know, is trying to forge agreements to the most difficult problems affecting the CA to find consensus. The latest decision was to offer Sucre the seat of the Judicial branch and a new branch called Electoral Power. The counter proposal came shortly thereafter reaffirming Sucre's contention to take the Legislative and Executive powers to Sucre.

This situation has, once again, placed the CA in danger. If there is no agreement, the CA cannot continue.

The Political Council is now wanting to move the CA to the department of Oruro, where they say the CA can continue without interruption.

The situation in the TC is important because it might have important consequences later on on constitutional matters that might arise. The situation with the CA and Sucre's demand is highly destabilizing and fares not well for the health of the CA.


galloglass said...

Miguel: Is this analogous to US Supreme Court Justices stepping down because the Dems or Republicans were attacking them? How does this happen? It's unthinkable in the US.

miguel (mabb) said...

It would be more like if George W. would start accusing Ginsburg of being biased and incapable of making sound decisions.

In the US the independence of the Supreme Court is well established. The closest thing is when the nomination process is under way. It is in the Senate where the justices get their share of attacks. Many have not made it.

In Bolivia I think this level of institutional independence has not been reached. The nomination process is politicized and the legitimacy of the judicial branch is not solid. The word justice in Bolivia has a different meaning than in the US. Not that justice in the US is perfect, I am just making a contrast or comparison.

Gringo said...

Off topic: I have read that Morales speaks only Spanish. That he speaks neither Quechua nor Aymara. T/F?

Court-packing. It definitely worked for Hugo.

miguel (mabb) said...

He speaks words and phrases and perhaps long sentences. Fluent Aymara, he speaks not! :-)

Boli-Nica said...

i have a nagging suspicion - or call it a hunch- that another bad aspect of Chavismo (suitcases of dollars) might have played a role.