Sunday, December 06, 2009

Watching Another Transformative Moment in Bolivia

(digitalwarriormedia) LA PAZ – On a luminous, clear day in the heart of Bolivia’s capital city La Paz, people mingled about the streets on the eve of one of the most significant days in Bolivia’s recent history. Tranquilo is how Bolivians were describing the mood throughout the country as voters anticipate their national elections on Sunday, December 6.

In front of La Paz’s Departmental Electoral Court, drivers cued up by the hundreds, waiting to receive special permits that allow them to work on Election Day. Meanwhile electoral court employees handed out voter guides by the hundreds to pedestrians and vehicles passing by.

Voting stations will open on Sunday for the first national election since the passage of the nation’s new Constitution in January of this year. Voters will choose their next president, vice-president and representatives in both houses of Bolivia’s Plurinational Legislative Assembly.

In addition, within five of Bolivia’s departments (Cochabamba, Chuquisaca, La Paz, Oruro, and Potosi) and 12 municipalities, autonomy referendums will be held where voters can accept or reject greater sovereignty from the central government.

President Evo Morales and Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera are polling at numbers above 55%, according to Telesur. However, local reports here in Bolivia have the incumbents polling at numbers above 60%. One driver who spoke with the Bolivia Transition Project while waiting in traffic on Avenida 16 de Julio said he expects Morales to win by 80%.

Several voters – from middle-class students to the masked shoe shiner – expressed their support for the government and the autonomy referendums. Autonomy that is inclusive, protects the unity of Bolivia and the rights of indigenous communities has wide support. But voters were critical of the separatist autonomy demonstrated in the past by Bolivia’s oligarchic elite.

One woman was pragmatic in her opinion of the current government. She said the changes taking place in Bolivia have both positive and negative effects, however most of the people were with Evo and she anticipated that the current government will win.

Meanwhile, opposition parties are continuing their charge that Sunday’s election will be marred by fraud. It is the first election in which a new biometric registration system will be used. A record number of 5.1 million voters were fingerprinted and photographed between August 1 and October 15. Sunday’s vote will put the new system to the test.

Around 300 international observers from the European Union (EU), Organization of American States (OAS) and the Carter Center will monitor voting sites throughout the country. The elections on December 6 will have the highest number of international observers ever to supervise an election in Bolivia.

The National Electoral Court, members of the Morales administration and international observers have noted the level of transparency in the upcoming election and dismissed the allegations of potential fraud.

On Sunday, the streets will be quiet as government regulations restrict vehicular travel on Election Day. But voting stations will be full of activity as the citizens of this poor, land-locked nation continue playing their part in an ongoing story that has the world watching the next transformative moment in Bolivia’s history.

Photos: Digital Warrior Media



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