The Rendon Group
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Political Environment Surrounding Bolivian Referendum to Extend Presidency Limits
Bolivian president Evo Morales acknowledges defeat in a referendum that would have cleared the way for him to run for a fourth term (AFP)
This week’s snapshot focuses on the Bolivian referendum to extend presidential term limits. Current President Evo Morales, on his third term in office, sought to change the Bolivian constitution in order to run for a fourth term. As early projections showed an unfavorable result, President Morales promised that he would respect the official results. The polls were held on 21FEB16, and resulted in a defeat of the referendum 51.3 percent to 48.7 percent. President Morales’s party, the ruling Movement for Socialism (MAS), admitted they will face “difficulties” in the 2019 elections without President Morales.
News summary of events during the week of 19FEB16 – 29FEB16
- 19FEB: At a rally to get out the ‘yes’ vote in La Paz, Morales said he had been asked to stay on by supporters who wanted his brand of “pragmatic socialism” to continue. (Reuters)
- 21FEB: National referendum polls opened to vote on a constitutional amendment that would allow presidents to serve three consecutive five-year terms, instead of the current two. (WSJ)
- 22FEB: Vice President Alvaro Garcia urged patience and caution following a referendum on President Evo Morales’ bid to seek a fourth term, calling it a tie and saying it was too early to call. (AFP)
- 22FEB: President Evo Morales urged Bolivians to wait for the official results of a referendum on allowing him to seek another term, even as exit polls and the preliminary tabulation point to a victory for the “no” side. (EFE)
- 22FEB: President Evo Morales promised to respect the official result of a referendum on whether he can run for a fourth term, as early data indicated he risked losing. (AFP)
- 23FEB: President Evo Morales lost the referendum on whether he could change the constitution to remain in power for a fourth term; the ‘no’ had beaten the ‘yes’ by 51.3 percent to 48.7 percent. (Reuters)
- 24FEB: President Evo Morales conceded he had lost a bid to seek a fourth term in office. (AFP)
- 25FEB: The ruling Movement for Socialism (MAS) admitted they will face “difficulties” in the 2019 elections without incumbent President Evo Morales on the ballot. (Xinhua)
- 28FEB: Morales’s ex-girlfriend Gabriela Zapata was jailed while the corruption case against her is investigated. (Reuters)
- 29FEB: President Evo Morales appealed for access to a son born out of wedlock to an ex-girlfriend who is now at the center of a corruption scandal shaking his administration. (AFP)
Sample of Twitter handles tweeting about the Bolivia Referendum to Extend Presidency Limits
- @fbajak: Frank Bajak, Chief of Andean News, Associated Press
- @DubeRyan: Ryan Dube, Reporter for The Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones Newswires in Peru
- @caseysjournal: Nick Casey, Andes Bureau Chief at The New York Times
- @dimitri_teleSUR: Dimitri O’Donnell, Foreign Correspondent @telesurenglish in Bolivia
- @MarkLatAm: Mark A. Keller, Andes Analyst with the EIU
Sample of Third Party Validators regarding the Bolivia Referendum to Extend Presidency Limits
Eduardo Gamarra, political scientist at Florida International University
“It is really going to depend on who comes out to vote and in that sense the MAS has a distinct advantage. They also have the rural vote, which is probably solidly behind the MAS.”
- “Bolivia’s Evo Morales Faces Tough Vote on Referendum”, WSJ, 19FEB
Marcelo Varnoux, executive director of the Bolivian Association of Political Science
“People are very upset that corruption allegations have reached the president. This is very delicate for MAS because they don’t have another leader that could replace Evo Morales. Without Evo, MAS will probably lose the elections.”
- “Bolivia’s Evo Morales Faces Tough Vote on Referendum”, WSJ, 19FEB
Michael Shifter, president of The Inter-American Dialogue
“While few can deny that Bolivia has seen impressive economic growth and social progress under Morales’ rule, many voters are sending a message that it is not enough. They want cleaner, more competitive politics.”
- “Bolivia referendum results suggest Evo Morales won’t get 4th term”, CBC, 22FEB
Jim Shultz, executive director of Democracy Center political advocacy group
“Evo’s traditional opposition among the affluent and middle class was joined by a wide swath of voters who have long been a part of his political support. Their turnaround isn’t about moving rightward but rather a rejection of corruption that reflects a belief that 20 years is too long for one person to be president.”
- “Bolivian Voters Reject Letting Morales Run for 4th Term”, ABC, 23FEB
Peter Siavelis, the director of Latin American and Latino Studies at Wake Forest University
“I don’t think [the vote] was really a criticism of Evo Morales; he still remains personally popular and people like his policies. But I think it shows that people are a little bit uncomfortable with this idea of one party, one-man rule.”
- “Bolivian blues: Morales’ defeat resonates in region”, Miami Herald, 25FEB
Sample of open source research conducted by TRG analysts related to the Bolivia Referendum to Extend Presidency Limits
- Bolivia referendum: Voting ends on fourth term for Morales
Date: 21 February 2016
People in Bolivia have voted in a referendum to decide whether President Evo Morales may stand for a fourth consecutive term of office.
Provisional results and exit polls are expected in the coming hours.
The country’s first president of indigenous origin faces a tough challenge after 10 years in power.
He called a referendum to ratify constitutional amendments approved by parliament last year, saying he needed more time to complete social reforms.
The opposition says the change is undemocratic.
“On Sunday we will win big,” Mr Morales said during the campaign. “The people will decide and there will be a lot to celebrate.”
- Bolivian referendum goes against Evo Morales as voters reject fourth term
Media: The Guardian (UK)
Byline: Dan Collyns and Jonathan Watts
Date: 23 February 2016
Bolivian voters appeared to have delivered a slim but stinging defeat to President Evo Morales after election officials announced he had lost a bid to run for a fourth straight term in office.
As early results came in Morales appeared defiant and unwilling to accept what increasingly looked like his biggest electoral setback in 10 years. But the country’s electoral authorities announced on Tuesday night that voters in a referendum had ultimately rejected by a slim margin a constitutional amendment to let him run for a further term in 2019.
After the announcement people poured into the streets to celebrate in the eastern city of Santa Cruz, where opposition to Morales is strong. Fireworks also sounded in La Paz, where there is weariness of corruption in the governing party.
The ballot measure in Sunday’s referendum had been voted down 51% to 49% with 99.5 percent of the ballots counted, officials said. The outcome also blocks the vice-president, Alvaro Garcia, from running again.
- Bolivia’s Evo Morales Accepts Defeat in Referendum
Media: Wall Street Journal
Byline: RYAN DUBE
Date: 24 February 2016
Bolivian President Evo Morales accepted defeat in a national referendum to change the constitution so he could run again, an outcome that underlines the decline of the populist left in Latin America.
The country’s election agency confirmed a slim “no” victory late Tuesday, 53 hours after voting ended. It said that 51.3% voted against the constitutional amendment and 48.7% voted for it in the referendum. The agency said it had counted 99.7% of the ballots.
“We accept the results, it is part of democracy,” Mr. Morales said in a news conference on Wednesday.
The result is a major upset for Mr. Morales, who said last month he expected to win in a landslide. After early voting results showed he could lose, Mr. Morales expressed hope that he could still squeak out a win with a surge in rural support.
- Bolivian blues: Morales’ defeat resonates in region
Media: Miami Herald
Byline: JIM WYSS
Date: 25 February 2016
In the decade since he took office, Bolivian President Evo Morales has become one of Latin America’s most recognizable political icons. With his helmet of black hair and colorful Aymara garb, he’s cultivated a reputation as the pragmatic face of South American socialism.
He’s also cultivated the aura of being unstoppable. As his ideological allies have stumbled throughout the region, Morales won his third consecutive race in 2014 with more than 60 percent of the vote. And polls continue to rank him as one of Latin America’s most popular presidents.
So when he sought to change the constitution, once again, to allow him to throw his hat in the ring for a fourth term (2020-25), many thought the nation would oblige. It didn’t.
A combination of corruption scandals, a turning economic tide and growing regional discontent with the status quo narrowly doomed his aspirations. Three days after Sunday’s vote, and amid growing protests, Morales conceded defeat. The electoral body reported that the “No” vote won by a margin of 51 percent to 49 percent.
- EDITORIAL: A Strange Day With Bolivia’s Evo Morales
Media: Taking Note (New York Times)
Byline: ERNESTO LONDOÑO
Date: 25 February 2016
Last week, I was invited to spend a day with President Evo Morales of Bolivia.
It was eye-opening, exhausting and somewhat surreal.
Mr. Morales, who has been in power since 2006, longer than any leader in the Western hemisphere, was on the final stretch of a referendum campaign that he hoped would keep him in office until 2025.
On Wednesday morning, somewhat reluctantly, he conceded defeat.
I’m pleased Bolivian voters decided in a referendum on Sunday that Mr. Morales’s third term in office, which ends in 2020, ought to be his last. While there’s much to admire about his political instincts and policies, I came to conclude after a recent visit to Bolivia that allowing Mr. Morales to consolidate even more power would be detrimental for his country. The hours I spent shadowing the Bolivian president did much to solidify that view.