GP Insights

GP Insights # 184, 16 November 2019

Bolivia: Political crisis over elections
Aparupa Bhattacherjee

What happened?
This week, clashes between the security forces and pro-Evo Morales protesters have resulted in several dead and injured. These clashes started after President Morales, was forced to step down over allegations of rigging the October 2019 elections. There was also pressure from the military, police and public protesters demanding the same. 
Now, the supporters of Morales, who refute the rigging allegation have taken to the streets to demand his re-installation. 
Currently, an interim administration has been formed with a mandate to call fresh elections. Morales has left for Mexico to avoid charges against him. 

What is the background?
Morales has been in power for 14 years and is also credited with several developments in Bolivia. From a humble background, he fought his way to become the first-ever indigenous leader. However, there was a transition in him; corruption and greed become evident in his policies. He also abused the State apparatus to boost his support and personal gains. 
In 2016, Bolivia's constitutional court allowed Morales to run for a fourth consecutive term, despite narrowly losing a referendum held during that year. This was not surprising as members of the court are elected from candidates nominated by the government-controlled assembly.
During the 20 October election, the vote count was interrupted and resumed only after 24 hours. When Morales's victory was declared, it was evident that he won by a narrow ten per cent over his closest rival. This alarmed the Organization of American States (OAS), whose audit found evidence of manipulation. However, even this evidence was questioned by the critique of OAS. Critiques also claimed that it was a desperate attempt by OAS to stop Morales coming to power, as this win in 2019 would have secure his tenure till 2025.

What does it mean?
First, the Bolivian protest is an example that even the most popular and celebrated leader could be removed from his position by the same people who have brought him to power. In this era of rising populism, this could be the antithesis. 
Second, the protests have included Bolivia into a long list in Latin America, where there are street protests.  In the region, Venezuela, Chile, Peru, and Paraguay have already plunged into political turmoil. 
Third, in Bolivia, the unrest will continue unless a new government is installed and impact its economic growth. In recent years Bolivia has witnessed a sharp economic growth in entire Latin America. 

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