[Marxism] Bolivia's voters reaffirm 'process of change' but issue warnings to the governing MAS

Richard Fidler rfidler_8 at sympatico.ca
Mon Apr 6 19:38:12 MDT 2015


Up to 90% of the electorate voted in Bolivia’s “subnational” elections March
29 for governors, mayors and departmental assembly and municipal council
members throughout the country. These were the second such elections to be
held since the new Constitution came into force in 2009, the first being in

The Movement for Socialism (MAS)[1] once again emerged as the only party
with national representation — by far the major political force in Bolivia,
and far ahead of the opposition parties, none of which has a significant
presence in all nine departments. However, in some key contests the voters
rebuffed the MAS candidates, most notably for governor in La Paz department
and for mayor in the city of El Alto, the centre of the 2003-2005 upsurges
and long considered a MAS bastion. 

Mixed results 

With 66% of the popular vote in the municipal elections, the MAS elected
mayors in 225 of Bolivia’s 339 towns and cities, about the same result as in
2010. However, consistent with a pattern in recent years, the various
opposition parties won in eight of the ten largest cities while the MAS
gained only two, Sucre and Potosí. 

In the departmental legislative assemblies, the MAS deputies now hold a
clear majority of seats in six departments, and a plurality in two others,
while in Santa Cruz the party is only two seats from a plurality. Even in La
Paz department the newly elected opposition governor will have to contend
with a two-thirds MAS majority in the legislature. 

Although the official results are not yet available, the MAS did well in the
municipal council elections, too. The results of elections in autonomous
indigenous communities, which are conducted according to ancient “usos y
costumbres” (customs and traditions), are not yet known. 

The MAS elected governors in four of the country’s nine departments and is
leading in two other departments with runoff elections scheduled for May 3.
(Under Bolivia’s election laws, a runoff is held when the candidates coming
1st and 2nd in the vote, with neither having 50% of the votes, are separated
by fewer than 10 percentage points.) Opposition parties elected governors in
three departments including Santa Cruz and Tarija, traditionally associated
with the “Media Luna” (half moon) set of departments that participated in
the unsuccessful 2008 revolt of the powerful landholder elite in the eastern

However, the major upsets for the MAS were in the department of La Paz,
where Felix Patzi, an Aymara intellectual and minister of education in Evo
Morales’ first government, was elected governor with a 20 percentage points
advance over the MAS candidate, Felipa Huanca, a leader of the
“Bartolinas,”[2] an indigenous and campesina (farmer) women’s organization
that is one of Bolivia’s major social movements. Patzi ran on the slate of
Soberanía y Libertad (Sovereignty and Liberty - SOL.BO), a reconstruction of
the Movimiento Sin Miedo (the “fearless movement”), which lost its party
certification in the October 2014 elections when it won less than 3% of the
national vote. SOL.BO also retained the mayoralty and a council majority in
the city of La Paz, the country’s administrative capital. 

Particularly galling to the MAS was its defeat in the El Alto mayoralty by
an Aymara woman, Soledad Chapetón of Unidad National (UN). The right-wing UN
is Bolivia’s largest opposition party; its leader Samuel Doria Medina took
25% of the vote in last year’s presidential election. Chapetón’s campaign
emphasized her personal qualities, not the UN, but her election raises some
questions as to why that party was able to capitalize on the MAS discredit
in this particular instance. In fact, with the possible exception of
governor-elect Felix Patzi in La Paz,[3] virtually all of the opposition
candidates and parties in the subnational elections, can be said to be to
the right of the MAS. This bears further examination, something beyond the
scope of this article.


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