Thursday, January 08, 2009

Bolivia's Historic Milestone on the Horizon

(digitalwarriormedia) In less than three weeks Bolivians will vote on a new constitution. And if a recent poll is an accurate indication of how Bolivians will cast their ballots, the constitution is expected to pass overwhelmingly. According to the Center for Public Management (Observatorio de Gestión Pública -OGP), if the nation-wide vote were held now, 65% of Bolivians would vote “Yes”, 16 % “No” and 19% are undecided.

The results look similar to President Evo Morales’ margin of victory in a national referendum held last August to determine whether he would remain in power and continue to lead the social and political agenda of his Movement to Socialism (Movimiento al Socialismo - MAS) party.
But OGP’s poll - which also showed potential voter behavior in all nine of Bolivia’s departments –demonstrated the same fractures between pro-government and opposition forces at the departmental level.

Morales maintains his support base in the departments of La Paz, Oruro and Potosi - with each showing at least 85% will vote "Yes" - followed by the department of Cochabamba with 67% approval.

In the five departments where political and civic leaders have vehemently opposed the Morales administration, the "Yes" results are mixed.

The department with the lowest level of support is the opposition stronghold of Santa Cruz (41%), closely followed by Chuquisaca and Tarija where poll results showed 47% could vote "Yes".



OGP results: TARIJA

Meanwhile, in both Beni (53%) and Pando (57%) - the new constitution could be approved with a slim majority.

The drafting of this document symbolizes a major victory for Morales - Bolivia’s first indigenous president. Repeatedly over the past year while speaking in the U.S. and at the United Nations, Morales has proudly displayed a palm-sized copy of the new charter.

When voted into office in December 2005, one of the main pillars of Morales’ political platform was to re-write the nation’s constitution and undo centuries of discrimination against the nation’s indigenous majority. Morales often recounted how his Quechua mother could not enter the main plaza in La Paz to illustrate how the Bolivian state historically discriminated against indigenous people.

Bolivia’s new constitution will officially recognize Bolivia’s 36 indigenous groups and grant legitimacy to indigenous languages, justice systems and autonomy. It will be the first national constitution to enshrine the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.

The MAS agenda faces vehement opposition from the Media Luna’s leadership who seek their own version of departmental autonomy from the central government in La Paz. There are also those business interests which reject constitutional provisions that grant greater state control over Bolivia’s natural resources. Others claim that the document will give too much power to Bolivia’s indigenous people and discriminate against non-indigenous people. Even supporters of Morales have criticized the process by which the document was drafted by the Constitutional Assembly and confirmed by the Congress.

The devil is in the details with respects to how these political and judicial spaces will be negotiated between the national interests of the country, the demands of Bolivia’s indigenous social groups and Morales’ political rivals.

Nonetheless, three years and three days after the day he was inaugurated as president, Morales will make good on his promise and allow Bolivians – indigenous, mestizo, white and black alike - to decide the future framework of their nation.

Photos: ABI

Click here to see all the departmental results from
Observatorio de Gestión Pública



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