May 30, 2014

Current US Policy on Latin America

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Here is a speech from Sec. Kerry about US policy towards Latin America. As usual not very much, but it should serve to give us some idea of the approach towards the region.

May 16, 2014

Elections 2014: The Distribution of Congressional Seats in the Bolivian System

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As I have been posting lately, the electoral process towards the presidential and legislative elections in Bolivia is well on its way. Not only the campaigns are in full swing but the work of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (the entity regulating and organizing the elections) is also progressing steadily. That the work of the SET progresses efficiently and independently is important because that work is the main guarantee for the legitimacy of the results and the stability of the political process. The SET has all the burden on itself.

However, since the advent of Morales into power, the reputation and the work of the SET has been repeatedly questioned by Bolivian observers, mostly the opposition and also by myself. In recent years, there have been many allegations of partiality with the ruling party. This critique was voiced during the last electoral process when the entity was revamping the electoral register, which it turned into a digital one. This time, critics have recently voiced concern about the redistricting efforts for the oncoming elections.

May 14, 2014

Elections 2014: Electoral Manipulation or Mere Organizational Process? Follow up

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The previous post was about how the electoral tribunal allegedly wanted to manipulate the electoral outcome by engaging in voting district manipulation. However, it was about an allegation because the actual redistricting was not yet done, but the media and the opposition were already yelling out foul.

Well, the regulation is out now and it seems the cries were exagerated or they really worked.

The electoral tribunal presented yesterday the newly redrawn voting districts for the 63 single-member deputies that will be elected to the lower chamber. This chamber is made up of those 63 uninominal (in Bolivian jargon) seats, in addition to 60 representatives elected by lists and the 7 special seats reserved for the indigenous peoples.

The adjustment was significant, however. Each of these districts has an assigned ideal number of voters, according to the number of citizens in each department. But, in the previous regulation prior to this last revision, the ideal number was allowed to vary by + or - 35.5 per cent. This meant a significant amount of variation in each district. However, in the last revision, this variation was reduced to + or - 15 per cent.

The most significant result was the loss of one uninominal seat for La Paz, Cochabamba and Oruro each and the gain of one seat for Santa Cruz. That means now that while La Paz had 5, now it has 4 seats only; while Cochabamba had 4, now it has 3; and while Oruro had 3, now it has 2 only. In addition, Santa Cruz went from having 7 to having 8 seats now. Considering that the population in Santa Cruz has increased in the last 11 years and some regions such as Oruro has lost some population, this results are far more in accordance with what had been expected from the new numbers obtained in the last census but far different from what some of last week's critics had imagined.

Last week several regions or departments had said they would mobilize agains any intent to manipulate the electoral outcomes. This week, the reactions are very different. Santa Cruz, after having received an explanation, decided to demobilize. La Paz, on its part, had called for a meeting of social forces for today, which after the publication of the electoral map by the TSE called it off. I am sure it will take a few more days for the other parties to scrutinize the new regulation and the map and to make decisions on whether to mobilize or not. Right now, it seems the problem will pass and the electoral season will go on.

Links:

Pagina Siete article on the issue, May 14, 2014

Erbol article with maps, May 14, 2014

Electoral Tribunal original data, May 14, 2014


May 09, 2014

Elections 2014: Electoral Manipulation or Mere Organizational Process?

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The electoral season is widely open in Bolivia and the government is already in the middle of campaigning towards a third term for the incumbent president Evo Morales. However, according to the opposition and some officials, campaigning is not all the government is doing. Since the advent of the new Plurinational Bolivian State in 2009, the government has been accused of having co-opted many important offices in the Bolivian government.

These days this general accusation is coming back to attention through the problem brewing regarding the coming elections in October and the method of congressional seats distribution. The Supreme Tribunal, the office in charge of carrying out the elections, has made public the methodology it plans to use to distribute the single-member district seats in congress.

In contrast to the previous methodology where the one criteria was the population, that is the proportion of the population to be represented by a single congressmen, the new method will also consider the ideal extension of territory. This means concretely that not only the number of people living in a single electoral district will be taken into account but also the size of the territorial extension of that district. In addition, the new regulation also gives these parameters significant room for variation. They either can get bigger or smaller.

In concrete terms, the opposition sees in this new regulation a new attempt from the part of the government to manipulate the election results in favor of itself. Several newspapers and other media have already alarmed the public with their headlines and some have even made some calculations of some of the possible outcomes. One outcome, according to the Pagina Siete newspaper, can be that the urban districts be reduced or combined into one districts and the number of rural districts to increase. This, would represent a significant advantage for the government because the MAS tends to have more support in the rural areas.

Though the redistricting has not been finished yet, the alarms issued by the media and the opposition are not without some merit. Especially considering that the electoral agency is not considered an independent institution, when in fact it should be.

Sources:
TSE fija margenes amplios para... Pagina Siete
Admiten que el reglamento puede mover circumscripciones ... Los Tiempos
Alerta por nuevo mapa electoral... El Diario