Evo Morales elected President of Bolivia. "For the first time, we are the president."

Jim Jepps

QuirogaEvo Morales has become the first indigenous candidate to be elected President of Bolivia, and the main opposition candidate, ex-President Quiroga, has conceded defeat.

Morales  won around 50% of the vote in Sunday's election - far outstripping the polls. This level of support also goes way beyond that which any previous president has been able to achieve, the highest gaining no more than 37% of the vote.

Update Morales gained 51.9% of the vote

This was despite many thousands of his potential supporters mysteriously finding themselves off the electoral register and unable to vote. For example Lois Gomez, a Mexican journalist, reports that "In Pongo, an Aymara highland community loyal to the MAS, 1,200 out of a total 1,800 voters were purged [from the electoral roll]." Nevertheless the candidate that for many represents class struggle and the movement from below has at last won the day.

Evo MoralesEvo stated that "we are going to work to bring an end to the neo-liberal model... The people are finally in power." Seconds after the first exit polls went out, celebrations could be heard in El Alto, the town high in the mountains around La Paz. Morales' party, the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS), has also won around 78 of the seats in congress, needing 79 for an outright majority. The picture will become clearer as more votes are confirmed.

Update There are now 78 members of congress from the right, 78 from MAS and 1 from the indigenous party MIP which is a party of the left, and therefore allows the left a majority in congress. Of 27 current senators however, there are only 12 MAS all the others coming from the right.

In the last four years Bolivia has had five presidents because of an incredible mass movement from below that refused to accept that the privatisation of natural resources was inevitable. Whilst Morales has had an over cautious relationship with these recent revolts, because of his history as a leader of real and radical struggles prior to this he is seen as the candidate of the movement.

In fact it is the very popularity of these struggles, against racism, for nationalisation, for real democracy and opposition to poverty that so many voted for Morales. Opposition to the policies of the  World Bank and the IMF is not confined to small groups of informed leftists but is right at the top of the agenda for those millions who have felt their harsh effects.

In the 2002 elections, Morales'  presidential campaign received a healthy boost when the US ambassador in Bolivia, Manuel Rocha, warned that Washington could cut off aid if Bolivians chose candidates like Mr Morales. This time round the privately owned media has run a vicious campaign against him and Morales took the opportunity of his victory address to thank them for helping him win the presidency.

Voting day in BoliviaMorales has a close relationship with many leftist political leaders in Latin America. Castro, Chavez and Lula have all had a profound personal influence over him. This, and the fact that he plans to legalise the growing of Coca, a traditional product of indigenous Bolivians, has led some, like CNN, to run headlines of  "America's nightmare leads Presidential race".

As Znet right states "Morales and running mate Alvaro Garcia Linera are the first to temper both the over-ambitious hopes of the left as well as the exaggerated fears on the right. "We should admit that Bolivia will still be capitalist in the next 50 to 100 years," Linera said in recent interviews."

After huge struggles and many years of endemic racism some Bolivians have been talking about needing a new Mandela to lead the country, but it's unlikely Morales can become such a figure.

Some ask whether Morales will be a Lula or a Chavez - but the real difference between the presidents of Brazil and Venezuela is the movement in those countries - and Evo Morales' trajectory will also be determined by how the movement responds to his victory.

If they allow Morales to take the "reasonable and responsible route" that he is clearly indicating is his preference then that is just what will happen and Morales, like Brazil's Lula, will be a break upon social change attempting to co-opt the movement and divert it from its aims.

If, like Venezuela's Chavez, Morales is forced to rely upon the movement to maintain power then Morales, who comes from a rank and file militant background, will be well placed to do so and may shift to the left.

But the third option is that the movement continues with its struggles as it must and Morales chooses to put himself in opposition to those demands. The pressure to do that will be strong. The US state department, the IMF, and the multinationals are all very real presences in Bolivia, not to mention endemic racism and powerful elites. If the movement is forced to confront Morales head-on then it will certainly be the end of Morales and a journey into new, uncharted terrain.

Whatever tomorrow holds Morales election victory has been a massive surge forwards for true democracy in Bolivia and Latin America more generally. People voted for social justice, radical reform and opposition to the power of the multi-nationals, only time will tell if this is what they actually get.

Update COB (the rough equivalent of the TUC) and the teachers union have given Morales three months in which to begin to sort out the problems of the workers




Useful articles


From the Democracy Centre Bolivia's Election Stunner

From the Democracy Centre Evo Morales- “The Voice of the People is the Voice of God.”

From Znet Evo Morales Becomes Bolivia's Next President, Now His Real ...

From Narcosphere With 51% of the vote Morales is president elect

From Narcosphere Election day in Bolivia

From Socialist Unity Jim Shultz on the election

See Also Nick Buxton's Blog from Bolivia

Prensa Latina Venezuelan Media Highlight Morales´ Victory

From the Guardian Unofficial Results Show Morales Victory

From the BBC Leftist claims victory in Bolivia

From CNN America's nightmare lead Presidential race

From ABC Bolivia elects first Indian leader, anti-US leftist

International Herlad Tribune 'Anti-imperialist' wins presidency in Bolivia

From the Melbourne Herald Sun Cocaine fear follows win in Bolivia

From BBC Profile- Evo Morales

Wikipedia Bolivian Presidential election

Wikipedia Bolivian Gas War

Official MAS campaign site (in Spanish)


Previously on Bolivia from Socialist Unity

Alvaro Garcia Linera Marxism and Indigenism in Bolivia- A Dialectic of Dialogue and Conflict

Bolivia Solidarity Campaign Nationalise the hydrocarbon reserves call a constituent assembly

Jean Friedsky Bolivia's gas war moves inside

Jim Jepps Bolivian military threatens intervention as new President is named

Jim Shultz Bolivian President Mesa resigns amidst mass protests




December 2005

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