In early July in Sicaya,
This upcoming recall vote on the president, vice president and eight of nine departmental governors is to take place at a time of historic change for the country. Half way through a five year term in office, Morales is applying social programs aimed at fighting poverty and inequality, and developing positive relationships with
Since May 4, autonomy referendums have been approved by voters in the departments of
In addition, all of the referendums were marked by high levels of voter intimidation and abstention – Morales urged his supporters to abstain from voting. In Pando, for example, the combined number of "no" votes and abstentions was 16,303, while the "yes" votes totaled only 12,671. In other departments, Morales supporters were kidnapped, tortured and beaten by right wing thugs in an attempt to suppress the anti-autonomy vote.
In spite of the questionable legitimacy of these referendums, the votes illustrate the growing polarization in the country. In another setback to the Morales administration, opposition prefect Savina Cuéllar, was elected in Chuquisaca on June 29. She was running against MAS candidate Walter Valda in a vote that took place in tandem with a successful autonomy referendum. However, the opposition’s apparent momentum is likely to be put in check by the August 10 recall vote.
In an attempt to break up a political impasse in December 2007, and in response to demands from the opposition, Morales proposed the recall bill which was passed on May 8, 2008 by the opposition-controlled Senate. The recall bill states that if the president, vice president and governors do not receive both a higher percentage of votes, and actual number of votes, in the recall referendum than what they received in the 2005 election, they will lose their position. Therefore, it’s possible to win the necessary percentage of votes, but lose the necessary number of votes, thus losing the recall vote. If Morales and vice president Alvaro Garcia Linera lose, they have to hold new elections within 90-120 days, in which they themselves are likely to be strong candidates. If the governors lose, they are to be replaced by an interim governor of Morales’ choosing until the next election. The recall vote on the governors will take place in eight out of the nine provinces; Chuquisaca won’t participate as Cuéllar was just recently elected governor there.
The results of the recall vote could vary widely. Polls indicate that Morales and Linera will win; they will likely be bolstered by new voters in rural areas voting for the first time after a massive voter registration drive led by the government. Morales is also likely to benefit from the fact that many voters and social organizations, in spite of any criticisms they have of his administration, will likely back him in a vote in which the alternative is essentially the right wing. As an analysis article on the Bolivian news publication BolPress explained, "[V]arious popular organizations have initiated a campaign to ratify Morales and kick out the oppositional governors, not because they consider that the actual leader [Morales] is managing the government well, it’s because the oligarchy’s return to power would imply an end to the possibility of transformation within the socio-economic structures of the country."
Though the recall vote may invigorate Morales’ mandate, and perhaps weaken the right, it’s unlikely to resolve many of the disputes tearing the political landscape apart. The question of whether the executive and legislative powers will be based in
Some opposition governors and their supporters will likely not respect the results of the recall vote, or even participate in it at all. Vice president Linera recently told reporters that "They will probably boycott some regions, those where they know will lose. I believe they are laying the grounds for some sort of boycott on August 10 to create conflicts." It is also not entirely clear if the recall vote will proceed at all. Magistrate Silvia Salame, the only judge on
While debates over the recall vote go on, controversy continues to surround how to best use
On June 24, Coca growers in
At the same time, regional support for the Morales administration’s policies is on the rise.
Lula and Chavez recently pledged to collectively contribute $530 million dollars to help with the development of highways linking
Back in Sicaya, where Morales said he would return to coca farming if he lost the recall vote, the president stated that now, "the vote serves not only to name authorities, but also to revoke their mandate. We are talking about expanding democracy." Yet recent history shows that democracy in
Benjamin Dangl is the author of "The Price of Fire: Resource Wars and Social Movements in Bolivia," (AK Press, 2007). He is the editor of TowardFreedom.com, a progressive perspective on world events, and UpsideDownWorld.org, a website on activism and politics in