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BOLIVIA
Citizens reject constitutional reform
Latinamerica Press
2/29/2016
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President and Vice-President cannot run for a fourth consecutive term.

The Plurinational Electoral Organ confirmed the victory of No in the constitutional referendum held on Feb. 21, impeding President Evo Morales from returning to run for a fourth consecutive term in the elections of 2019. The No campaign won 51.3 percent to 48.7 percent won by the Yes campaign.

In a press conference held two days after the referendum, Morales admitted his defeat stating that “we respect the results, it is part of democracy.”

“We lost the battle, but not the war,” said the President. “We have four more years to govern and the struggle will continue even stronger and accompanied by the social movements.”

This is the first defeat that Morales has experienced since 2006 when he was elected with 54 percent of the vote for his first term. Since then the Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) has won all the presidential, legislative and municipal elections by high margins. On Oct. 12, 2014, Morales and Vice-President Álvaro García Linera were elected with 60 percent of the votes for a third term that began on Jan. 22, 2015, and will continue until 2020.

On Sept. 26, the Legislative Assembly approved the reform of Article 168 of the Constitution which permits the one-time reelection of whomever occupies the Presidency and Vice-Presidency. The reform — that the Plurinational Constitutional Tribunal declared constitutional — established the reelection for two consecutive terms.

The referendum was convoked on Nov. 16 by a law approved by the Legislative Assembly “so that the Bolivian people, through direct and participatory democracy and in full exercise of their sovereign power, approve or reject the reform of Article 168 of the Political Constitution of the State.”

Responding to the question: “Do you agree with the reform of Article 168 of the Political Constitution of the State which allows the President and the Vice-President of the State to be reelected for two consecutive terms?,” the majority decided No and Article 168 will not be changed. President Morales will not be able to be a candidate for the elections of 2019.

Redistributive politics
Although the results of the referendum show that at this moment the figure of Morales polarizes the country, it does not mean that half the voters question the political, economic and social programs the government has promoted.

Morales has declared his decision to continue implementing these programs, which have propelled the country to an average annual growth rate of 5 percent between 2006 and 2015, transforming the economy into the most stable of the region. The redistributive policies of the Morales government have benefitted the traditionally poorest and most marginal sectors, especially the indigenous and campesino people. One of the achievements Morales can point to is the elimination of illiteracy.

Since 2006, with the income generated by the nationalization of strategic sectors such as hydrocarbons, telecommunications and electricity — which ended in friendly agreements between the government and the businesses affected that were fairly compensated — social bonds were financed such as “Juancito Pinto”, for school children, “Renta Dignidad”, providing life pensions for those older than 60, and “Juana Azurduy” for pregnant women and children under two years, among others.

Morales has committed to reduce extreme poverty from 17.3 percent in 2014 to 9.5 percent at the end of his term, moderate poverty from 39.3 percent to 24 percent, and inequality of income between the wealthiest and the poorest, from 39 times in 2014 to 25 times in 2020.

According to analysts, the referendum result gives the MAS the opportunity to identify other leaders, but above all, to give a major push for government programs.

“It is expected, lastly, that the electoral setback suffered by the Bolivian MAS will serve to revitalize the transformative project being carried out in this country and encourage the strengthening of leaders capable to substitute Evo Morales in the leadership,” commented an editorial in the Mexican daily newspaper La Jornada. —Latinamerica Press.


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