Monday, October 13, 2014

Bolivia's Evo Wins, But 2/3 Majority in Doubt

Bolivian President Evo Morales appears to have easily won a third term in yesterday’s general election as expected, though polling data is divided over whether his party secured a two-thirds supermajority in the legislature.

The AP reports that although the official vote tally has not been completed, the indigenous Aymara leader declared victory late last night and his closest challenger Samuel Doria Medina has conceded defeat

Two exit polls conducted by major polling firms in the country show that Morales beat his rival by at least thirty points. Ipsos found 59.7 percent support for the president and 25.1 for Doria Medina, while Equipos Mori found 61 percent for Morales and 24 percent for Doria Medina. Both polls show Morales winning re-election in Santa Cruz for the first time, an impressive feat considering that the eastern province has built a reputation as an anti-Morales hotbed.

The big question, however, is whether Morales’ Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) will solidify its legislative control. Going into the vote the MAS hoped to secure a solid two-thirds majority, which it currently lacks as a result of five lawmakers breaking from the MAS coalition in 2011 over the TIPNIS highway project.  

Morales’ party appears to have fallen just short of its goal. According to La Razon, Ipsos estimates that the MAS earned a controlling majority in the Senate (25 of 36 seats), but not in the Chamber of Deputies (107 of 130 seats, four short of a two-thirds majority). Equipos Mori also found that the MAS won 25 senate seats, but that it is just one representative short of obtaining two-thirds of the lower house.

La Razon also reports that electoral officials have reported no irregularities, apart from the fact that the ballots apparently mixed up the name of the country. Instead of voting for their representatives in the “Plurinational State of Bolivia,” voters were asked to choose from a list of candidates for office in the “Plurinominal” state.

Recent articles on Morales’ smart political maneuvering and sound economic governance in the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal and Upside Down World all help explain why the president won in a landslide. But these analyses have been relatively short-sighted, with little to no discussion of Bolivia’s post Morales future. Argentine journalist Martin Sivak breaks from this trend in a recent op-ed for the New York Times, criticizing the Evo-centric nature of the current government. Sivak argues that if the president truly cares about leaving a lasting legacy, he should use this term to groom a credible successor:
The problem of this strong personal identification with the presidency will only grow more acute if his legislators press to modify the constitution in order to guarantee Mr. Morales’s unlimited re-election (all he needs is two-thirds of the vote on Sunday). Any eternalization will ultimately be a blow to the economic boom and the social progress achieved. The new Bolivia should not allow a president’s cold to escalate into a raging disease.

News Briefs
  • On Sunday, the New York Times editorial board called on the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama to end the U.S. embargo on Cuba, noting that for the first time since its establishment, it is “politically feasible to re-establish formal diplomatic relations” with the island. While ending the embargo would require congressional approval, restoring diplomatic relations would not, and the NYT argues that a first step should be ending the specious inclusion of Cuba on the list of state sponsors of terror.
  • Third place Brazilian presidential candidate Marina Silva has, as expected, endorsed center-right Aecio Neves’ bid in a runoff against President Dilma Rousseff. As O Globo and the BBC report, she did so only after Neves agreed to modify his platform to include support for land reform, indigenous land rights and environmental issues.
  • São Paulo Mayor Fernando Haddad’s bold harm reduction initiative in his city’s Cracolândia  neighborhood, the De Braços Abertos program, continues to earn him international praise. In an interview with Folha last week, Drug Policy Alliance Director Ethan Nadelmann called De Braços Abertos “an example of wisdom, pragmatism and political courage, which are essential for Brazil to take a step forward regarding a smarter drug policy.” Nadelmann, who was in Rio speaking on drug policy reform at a TedGlobal Conference, was also interviewed by O Globo, which asked him about his personal relationship with substances and his take on Rousseff’s positions on drug policy.
  • The current mayor of San Salvador, Norman Quijano of the right-wing ARENA party, has announced that he will not seek another term in elections next March. El Faro reports that Quijano dropped his re-election bid as a result of pressure from within ARENA, a sign of friction within the conservative party.
  • Guerrero state Governor Angel Aguirre has offered a glimmer of hope to the relatives of the 43 missing students from Iguala, announcing on Saturday that some of the remains found in nearby mass graves had been identified as not belonging to the students. However, Aguirre did not say if all of bodies had been identified yet, the AP reports. According to the Wall Street Journal, however, Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam said that it was too soon to make any conclusion and that authorities had not finished testing the remains.
  •  In an excellent NYT column published on Friday, Ioan Grillo puts the Iguala students’ disappearances in the context of Mexico’s chronically weak institutions and their inability to confront violent criminals. “Being ruled by corrupt and self-interested politicians can be bad,” he writes. “But imagine being ruled by sociopathic gangsters.”
  • Venezuelan authorities have announced the arrest of two suspects linked to the killing of PSUV lawmaker  Robert Serra, though the possible motives for the murder have not yet been revealed.
  • The Guardian offers a counterpoint to the popular narrative regarding “urban renewal” in Bogota, Colombia. While recent Bogota mayors like Antanas Mockus and Enrique Peñalosa have cultivated international reputations for developing unique approaches to city management, they are not without critics. The Guardian profiles the work of Juan Pablo Galvis, who asserts that despite all of the city’s gains in security and poverty, much work remains to be done in Bogota in terms of overcoming discrimination and social exclusion.