September 06, 2009

Pre-Electoral Landscape

MABB © ®

As we get closer to the December 6 general elections, the Bolivian pre-electoral landscape is sorting itself out and candidacies seem to be emerging. The main reason is the upcoming deadline (September 7) to register political alliances. In addition, the candidate lists for president, vicepresident and members of congress (plurinationals) have to be presented as well.

As many readers surely have already seen in the Bolivian press, the negotiations among opposition leaders have been, the past weeks, nothing short of frantic. The Frente Amplio (Ample Front) could not be realized in spite of all the meetings and negotiations among opposition leaders. According to many reports, regional politics have played a major roll in these negotiations. Not only among the various regions such as La Paz, Cochabamba, Tarija and Santa Cruz (to mention some) but also within the regions themselves. Different groups have been trying to gain political relevance in light of the lack in leadership in the opposition.

In particular, dissent and lack of compromise have proven damaging to articulate an opposition front able to dispute the country's leadership in the next elections. From the many meetings and negotiations covered by the press, it has become clear that the opposition is plagued by too many leaders who don't seem to want to give up political aspirations. In the last two weeks Samuel Doria Medina (UN), Victor Hugo Cardenas (Gente), German Antelo (MNR), Manfred Reyes Villa (NFR), Rene Joaquino (AS), Alejo Veliz and Roman Loayza (the last two former MAS leaders) have declared themselves candidates. In La Paz, the discrepancies have been the strongest. To the dispute about who will make a good candidate, Cardenas has been confronted with political analyst and journalist Jimena Costa. The latter was suggested by one of the major paceno political forces, Plan Progeso's Jose Luis Paredes. It became later clear that the disagreement was concentrated on the making of the members of congress plurinational lists. The opposition's opium has been access to power.

However, within the las three days, Manfred Reyes Villa has been able to capitalize on one politically advantageous move, i.e. the nomination of former Pando Prefect Leopoldo Fernandez as his running mate. Fernandez has been in jail accused, by the government, for masterminding the Porvenir killings. The move is politically shrewd because many Bolivians think that Fernandez has been unjustly jailed, not because there is prof of his innocence, but because of the way the government has acted in his case. He was basically kidnapped and jailed before he was judged guilty. The Reyes Villa-Fernandez duo has attracted much support. Some of the groups already in camp are: Jose Luis Paredes, German Antelo, Mario Cossio, Sabina Cuellar, maybe even Rene Joaquino. The alliance name will be Plan Progreso para Bolivia - Convergencia Nacional (PPB-CN).

Other two candidacies are in the game as opposition. First, with the UN, Samuel Doria Medina and Gabriel Halbing Arauz (former union leader in Santa Cruz), with support of Oscar Ortiz, the Senate President. The other is AS with Rene Joaquino and Carlos Suarez (former evangelical priest). The government is currently in a comfortable position due to its poll showings in the upper 40s. Morales is in the middle of his campaign and the implementation of his electoral strategy to get the super majority in both chambers of congress.

Lastly, nothing is set on stone yet. The pieces could be reordered still as two more important dates are coming. The first one (October 17) is the deadline for the parties to present all the requirements confirming the candidates fulfill, again, all the requirements. The second date is November 21, which is the last day anyone can file an appeal to invalidate the accreditation of a candidate. After this last date, there won't be going back.