Bolivia faces presidential elections with an eye on the candidates Luis Arce of the Movement to Socialism (MAS) and former president Carlos Mesa of the Citizen Community (CC). The latest polls locate the Minister of Economy of the government of Evo Morales as a favorite. However It remains to be determined if the difference he gets from Mesa will allow him to win in the first round. The third party in contention, who can affect the result, is the former mayor of Santa Cruz de la Sierra Luis Fernando Camacho. The candidate of the We Believe Alliance represents the most radical and anti-Masist right wing. Going to a ballot, the chances of Morales’ match appear more diffuse.
Maple: the face of the “economic miracle”
A total of 7,332,925 Bolivians are entitled to elect president and vice president, 36 senators and 130 deputies, among other positions. Bolivia comes to this election after a dramatic year. It all started in the October 2019 electoral process. There, after Morales was re-elected, the opposition launched accusations of fraud that served to force his resignation on November 10 and install an irregular government. Once in power, the de facto president Jeanine Áñez should call elections within a maximum period of 120 days. However, the arrival of the coronavirus produced that the chosen date will be postponed three times. From Morales’s party, they denounced that the interim government he was using the health crisis to perpetuate himself in power. Finally, after days of protest that paralyzed several areas of the country in August this year, the date of October 18 was fixed.
To win in the first round, a candidate must meet one of these requirements: obtain half plus one of the votes or reach more than 40 percent of the votes and establish a difference of 10 points with respect to the second. If this scenario does not occur there will be ballotage. The date of the same is scheduled for November 29 and sIt was the first time it had happened in the history of Bolivia.
With Morales unable to participate in the election and a refugee in Argentina, the former president’s party opted for Arce as a candidate for the presidency. The economist was in charge of the Ministry of Public Finance 12 of the 14 years of the MAS in power. His partner in the formula is the also historic Minister of Foreign Affairs during the Morales government, David Choquehuanca. The latest surveys published by the Latin American Strategic Center for Geopolitics (CELAG) and the Jubilee Foundation of Bolivia showed that the masista binomial could rise in the first round. The data hold that Arce could reach a vote flow of between 40 and 45 percent, similar to the one Morales obtained in the 2019 invalidity elections. The political scientist Marcelo Arequipa stressed that this would represent the consolidation of the Masista political project beyond the figure of its leader. “The MAS is not just Evo Morales. It is a historical political current. No political party has been able to have that intention to vote that the MAS has. And now they repeat numbers without their leader. Never in the history of the country has something like this happened ”, said Arequipa.
The opposition: two-pronged
For his part, Mesa is a 67-year-old journalist who He held the presidency between 2003 and 2005 after the resignation of Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada. He was in power for only 20 months since the social upheaval that reigned in Bolivia led him to submit his resignation. Now the CC candidate would obtain between 30 and 26 percent of the votes according to the latest polls. In the 2019 election, he had reached 36.51 percent of the votes, according to the data left by the final count. The fundamental difference regarding this vote is the presence of Camacho as a candidate. The former president of the Santa Cruz Civic Committee concentrates the most radical anti-Masist vote. In this sense, the analyst and political scientist Jorge Ritcher He remarked that his presence undermines Mesa’s chances. “Camacho in Santa Cruz was close to exceeding 40 percent of the vote according to the latest polls. Every vote for Camacho is one that Mesa loses. In this department, Mesa obtained 47 percent in 2019. Today it is below 20 percent. Those votes are critical for the former president, “said the political scientist.
Much of the Bolivian right has been pressuring the leader of Santa Cruz to back Mesa. At the time of lowering his candidacy for president Áñez made it clear that they should avoid a victory for Arce. “I am withdrawing due to the risk that the democratic vote will be divided among several candidates and that, as a result of this division, the MAS will end up winning the election“, the interim president had confessed. The rest of the candidates are Chi Hyun Chung, from the Front for Victory and Feliciano Mamani, from the Bolivian National Action Party. The other candidates who had originally presented themselves were dropping their candidacies in recent weeks.
Economic and social crisis
Another determining factor for MAS to achieve or not a victory in the first round is the vote of the middle classes. In October of last year, these sectors expressed their anger at Morales’ candidacy since the February 2016 referendum had denied him that possibility. However, Arce expressed confidence that his candidacy has once again attracted this social sector. In line with that rhetoric, the former president declared in a video released last Thursday that he will not interfere in a possible government of the former minister. “Lucho and only Lucho will be President of Bolivia, with all the powers and responsibilities that this implies“Morales said. He also said that from now on his task will be to train new leaders.
The reality is that Bolivia is mired in a deep economic crisis. After the arrival of the pandemic urban unemployment doubled in the year-on-year measurement and it reached 8.4 percent in the second quarter of 2020, according to the National Institute of Statistics (INE). This had a direct impact on the poverty levels of the country where 62 percent of workers work in the informal economy. For Arequipa this will be the real challenge to face for whoever wins the election. “After Sunday the problems that worry people begin. If there is no ballotage as of Monday, the winning candidate will have to face a very strong economic and social crisis scenario, ”said the political scientist.
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