LA PAZ – Bolivia’s ruling party says it believes that control of the national legislature is up for grabs in the Oct. 20 general elections but that leftist President Evo Morales is poised to secure a fourth term with a resounding victory.
Bolivian Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera referred to the prospects of the ruling Movement toward Socialism (MAS) party in an interview with EFE in La Paz, acknowledging that recent fires in the eastern area of Chiquitania will have an impact on the results but expressing confidence that Morales, the first indigenous president of that majority indigenous nation, will emerge victorious in the first round of balloting.
Garcia Linera, a prominent Latin American leftist politician and former leader of a indigenist-inspired guerrilla group, has been Morales’ vice president since the latter first took office in 2006 and is his running mate once again in the current election cycle.
The opposition, for its part, questions the legitimacy of the current ruling-party ticket for allegedly defying constitutional term limits and not respecting the results of a 2016 referendum, in which voters rejected Morales’ bid to amend Bolivia’s charter to allow him to seek another five-year term.
How do you see this new election? Some polls put your party, the Movement toward Socialism (MAS), as the winner in the first round, while others say there could be a second round.
We’re working to secure a first-round victory. The polls ... indicate that the MAS is rising. (The momentum) slows down at times, but then it picks up again.
A second candidate, Carlos Mesa, who’s falling (in the polls), started off at 39 percent and now is battling to be at 25. And a third and fourth candidate who are struggling to rise.
We’re confident that we’re going to win in the first round and we’re going to have a majority in the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate.
The question in these elections is whether we’re going to have two-thirds or not. Whether we’re going to have two-thirds like in (the 2014 balloting) or we’re going to go back to a system of divided government, with one of the chambers under opposition control, which happened in 2005.
Ultimately that’s what’s at stake in these elections, not so much who’s going to win but with what margin and whether it’s with the two-thirds to control both chambers.
A portion of the voters is backing the opposition so the MAS doesn’t continue on. Do you think it’s possible that you could lose the majority in Congress?
There’s always that possibility. But with the polling data and the face-to-face work we’re doing with people, we think we’ve got an absolute majority in Congress assured and we’re striving to get that absolute two-thirds majority (needed for constitutional changes).
The opposition wants to take that two-thirds majority away from us and even wants to take one of the chambers, and that will be decided in the final days of campaigning. We’re confident we’ll achieve that victory.
If that doesn’t occur, would there be a repeat of the scenario in 2006, when the MAS didn’t have the majority (in the Senate)?
That would be problematic for any government. A government that doesn’t have the support of Congress, of one of the chambers. will always have problems. Don’t forget that Carlos Mesa didn’t have the support of the National Congress and had to resign (in 2005) .
Is it enough to have the support of social movements that back the change process you have with the (Patriotic) Agenda 2025? Will that (support of hard-core supporters) be sufficient?
It’s important because those are the low-income sectors of Bolivian society, the poor, the working people. At heart, the MAS is a party of the poor, the lower classes, but being in power nationally always requires the support of ... middle-class sectors. And that’s what’s in play.
Over the past 13 years we’ve managed to bring nearly 30 percent of the population into the middle class. It’s a new middle class of working class and indigenous origin.
We’re confident that a large section of that middle class, which is the fruit of a process of change and still carries the symbols of their popular, indigenous identity, will support the MAS in a big way.
The government’s response to the fires in Chiquitania has been applauded by different sectors but called into question by others. Do you think that what happened could take votes away from the MAS?
(The fires in that area of the eastern Bolivian region of Santa Cruz ravaged nearly 4 million hectares of grassland and forest, according to the regional government, between August and this week, when they were finally extinguished due to heavy rains).
Certainly the issue of the fires in Chiquitania will have an electoral impact. In fact, that’s already been seen in the polls.
Six ministers dedicated to this issue, an outlay of nearly $25 million and $200 million made available to address the problem. We hired the world’s biggest fire-fighting planes and helicopters. We mobilized 4,000 men of the armed forces, 2,500 from the Bolivian National Police.
The state went all out to extinguish the fires, and while it’s never enough in the face of a phenomenon of that magnitude, I think people are starting to understand that we did all that we could and even in the area of international aid we sought to enlist (the help) of all of the world’s countries.