Bolivia Political Development

By | March 22, 2021

Evo Morales in front of the congress

Evo Morales in front of the congress

Domestically, Morales was able to steadily consolidate his power since the beginning of his term in office, although the country was strongly polarized at the beginning. Morales used among other things a with-us-or-against-us rhetoric, which the members of the government apparatus and their employees divided into supporters and critics. The supporters were tied to the side of the ruling party MAS by granting political advantages, the critics were forced out. This government motto was quickly extended to the entire population, and Evo Morales was often accused of continuing to operate in the confrontational logic of the union leader, rather than as the president of all Bolivians.

Bolivia is a country located in South America according to thefreegeography. Using various tactics, the government has succeeded in significantly reducing support for the opposition regions such as Santa Cruz, Pando and Beni, and the resulting threat to its government. Important instruments were the two-thirds majority in Congress and the control of the most important public posts, such as the decision-making level of the electoral authority or the judiciary (judges and public prosecutors). Also of importance was the passage of certain laws that allowed the judicial prosecution and impeachment of elected opposition leaders. So every charged public official had to resign, regardless of how valid the allegations were. Through these measures, Morales and his MAS party were able to temporarily control eight of the nine regional governments.

The Morales government had introduced some unconventional changes. For example, instead of the extermination of coca, a policy of “Coca si, drogas no” (coca yes, drugs no) was proclaimed and reference was made to the traditional ritual meaning of the coca leaf. This policy was controversial internationally and also at national level, as it did not succeed in reducing coca production for illegal business. Critics also considered this to be unlikely, since Evo Morales has not resigned the office of chairman of the coca unions of the Chapare to this day. In addition, the state has a stronger role in economic development – nationalizations and major state projects in key sectors came first.

Evo Morales and the MAS (with their alliances with numerous indigenous and worker groups) have ruled the country since October 2014, now in their third term – although the 2009 constitution limits the terms of office of President and Vice-President to a maximum of two consecutive terms. Morales was re-elected President with 61% of the vote, which, due to the special provisions of the electoral law, led to a two-thirds majority in both houses of Congress. This gave the government the power to continue the “proceso de cambio” without the participation of the parliamentary opposition. Their strongest parties, the Democratic Union and the Christian Democratic Party, received 24% and 9% of the vote, respectively.

In order to then enable a further, fourth term of office for Evo Morales, the government held a national referendum on February 21, 2016 (“21 F”) on a corresponding constitutional amendment. Despite massive use of the government and pro-government media as well as political intimidation, the referendum was just lost with 51% no votes, according to government information. Various opposition observers assume that the only way to avoid a much higher defeat was through a wide range of election manipulation. In any case, this popular vote meant the MAS’s first defeat in national elections, opening up a new political scenario. Initially, the continued presidency of Evo Morales was up for debate,are allowed to run again.

In the run-up to the elections planned for October 2019, the government tried to restrict the opposition’s chances of voting by means of a new party law. In the course of the year – as was to be expected – there were various disputes, which continued even after the resignation of the President, Vice-President and the Chairmen of the Senate and Parliament.

Media landscape

The Morales government had won the confrontation with the mass media. A first step on this path was the establishment of a network of state media, which support the government of Evo Morales; among them are the state ABI and the newspaper Cambio, as well as Radio Patria Nueva and Bolivia TV. A second measure was the passing of a law on the prosecution of, among other things, racist statements, however, the concept is very vaguely defined and therefore freely interpretable. This law was also used against media critical of the government. According to the private media, this law restricts the freedom of the press and therefore democracy. When the interim president Janine Añez took over office, the state media lost much of their support.

Among the private media, El Diario, Erbol, Radio Fides (Catholic), Página Siete and La Razón from La Paz, Los Tiempos from Cochabamba and El Deber from Santa Cruz are the most important daily newspapers and radio stations. Also worth mentioning are the weekly economic magazine Nueva Economia, the news portal Bolpress and the church press agency Agencia de Noticias Fides (ANF).