Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Morales Signs Recall Referendum Bill, Crisis Continues

(digitalwarriormedia) The date has been set for Bolivia’s political leadership to face their fate at the hands of voters.

On August 10, the positions held by President Evo Morales, Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera and Bolivia’s nine departmental governors will hang in the balance of a recall referendum outcome.

The bill was signed into law on Monday by Morales, who said the referendum will achieve a solution in a democratic manner and allow the people to “give their verdict by their vote.”

He called on the National Electoral Court to guarantee transparency of the referendum and he also invited foreign observers to monitor the vote.

The bill was originally proposed by the president late last year amidst the opposition’s staunch rejection to the draft constitution.

Bolivia's lower Congress approved the measure on December 15, but the bill was stalled in the Senate until last Thursday.

According to the law, in order to keep their respective positions, each official must win both more votes and a greater percentage of support than they did in the 2005 elections.

Morales won the Presidency with 53.7% of the vote –a margin that is unprecedented in Bolivian history. A recall would require 54% of voters, or about 1.55 million to say “no”. All of the departmental prefects were elected with less than 50% of the departmental vote.

A little more than two years into his presidency, the move is a gamble for Morales, who was elected into office until 2011. However many political analysts note that the departmental governors are in a more vulnerable position than Morales and Vice President Garcia Linera.

The opposition is riding a wave of support garnered by the departmental autonomy referendum that Santa Cruz voters approved on May 4. The central government and the nation’s highest electoral court dismiss the vote as illegal, but the large voter turnout has invigorated the boldness of the opposition and their autonomy pursuits.

If Morales loses, he must call a new presidential election that will be held within three to six months. However, departmental governors will be removed from office immediately, with Morales appointing interim prefects until new state elections are held.

While the supporters of Santa Cruz's departmental autonomy call their referendum of May 4 a victory, the departments of Beni, Pando and Tarija continue with plans to hold their own regional autonomy referendums in the coming weeks.

Over the weekend Morales called for more dialogue and reiterated an open invitation for all nine governors to convene at the National Palace for a meeting on Monday.

Despite the central government’s desire to stem the political crisis with further talks, the governors of Beni, Pando and Tarija said they will not continue dialogue with the central government until after they hold their own autonomy referendums.

None of the Media Luna departmental prefects showed up to meet with Morales on Monday even though the President indicated a willingness to address their individual demands.*

Meanwhile, the government continues to receive international and regional support. According to statements made to Rio’s daily O Globo, Brazilian Foreign minister Celso Amorim, said that South America would never accept "separatism in Bolivia". Argentina and Colombia as well as Mexico have all indicated their support and publicly condemned the autonomy referendums.

*Correction added



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