Morales wins third term in Bolivian elections

Photo Credit: Alain Bachellier

Photo Credit: Alain Bachellier

The 2014 presidential elections in Bolivia held on October 12 have resulted in a third term for serving President Evo Morales and his party, Movement for Socialism. He has obtained 60%, thus avoiding a run-off with his closest rival, Samuel Doria Medina from the Democrat Unity Coalition, who only obtained 25%. The elections were supervised by the newly-created Plurinational Electoral organ and they were the second elections to take place under the country’s 2009 constitution.

President Evo Morales has been constitutionally permitted to run for re-election on the 20th May 2013 through a bill signed by MfS Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera in the presence of MPs, members of armed forces and MfS representatives, after the Supreme Court’s decision in April 2013, which ruled that Morales’ first term did not count for the constitutional term limits as Bolivia’s constitution had been amended afterwards.

The President declared that “this win is a triumph for anti-imperialists and anti-colonialists” at the presidential palace in La Paz to his cheering supporters. He then dedicated “this triumph” to the Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro and Venezuela’s late president, Hugo Chavez. His victory was celebrated by left-wing Latin American leaders, who have congratulated the President on his re-election. The presidents of Argentina and Uruguay, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and Jose Mujica called Mr. Morales to congratulate him personally, while Nicolas Maduro, the president of Venezuela, and Salvador Sanchez Ceren, the president of Salvador, decided to take to Twitter to express their support. Nicolas Maduro posted a series of messages in Spanish on his account: “Evo, a great victory of the South American homeland, from Venezuela we send you a hug and congratulations, let’s carry on winning!” to celebrate Mr. Morales’ victory, and Salvador Sanchez Ceren tweeted that the election “strengthens democracy, Bolivia continues building hope for Latin America and the world”. Daniel Ortega, the president of Nicaragua, has also publicly congratulated Evo Morales, saying that his success was proof of “the vigour of the liberation process in the region”.

The support of the left-wing leaders of Latin America is accompanied by the popularity of the President amongst the members of the Aymara indigenous group, which he belongs to, and outside of his ethnic group, who have celebrated the outcome of the elections. The strong economic growth that Bolivia has experienced since 2006, after Mr. Morales has taken office as the first indigenous president has won him the trust of many supporters. Poverty levels have decreased during his time in office, as he used the country’s commodity wealth to address the inequality, despite the fact that Bolivia remains one of the poorest countries in the region. However, he has undergone heavy criticism for not tackling the issue of corruption that is tearing the country apart, which was the main electoral promise of his closest rival, who vowed to clean up the judiciary if elected.

In addition to that, Mr. Morales has also been accused of introducing measures that do not protect the environment and of using government funding, spending millions of dollars on his re-election campaign and thus creating a fractured opposition.

The inequality and contrasts in the country are as undeniable as its economic progress- slums and counterfeit products sold on poorly built street stalls are surrounding a brand new shopping mall next to a monument in honour of Che Guevara. While the economic growth of Bolivia has been associated with Mr. Morales’ leadership, which has supposedly brought him his third victory, the country still has many issues to overcome. His party, Movement for Socialism, is expected to win a strong majority in Congress, and should they maintain the two-thirds majority in the Senate and Assembly, an amendment to the constitution is very likely to be implemented to permit Mr. Morales to run for a fourth term in office. Whether he will be able to maintain his popularity and supporters for a fourth victory remains to be seen.

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