On February 21, some 6.5 million Bolivian voters will decide whether to amend their Constitution to permit a third consecutive presidential term. A “Yes” vote will allow President Evo Morales and Vice-President Alvaro García Linera to run for reelection in 2019 for another 5 years. A “No” vote will require the ruling MAS (Movement Towards Socialism) party to select a new slate in 2019. Morales, Bolivia’s longest-serving president, has just completed his first decade in office (2005–2015)—a remarkable achievement in a country which has suffered close to 200 coups. He also has the longest tenure of any incumbent Latin American president, with a current term extending to 2020. The proposed amendment would actually allow him a fourth consecutive term— 20 years in total— counting his first (2005) election, which predates the new Constitution. Morales wants 70% of Bolivian voters to ratify the amendment—though only a plurality is required—to top the 54%, 64%. and 61% mandates he received, respectively, in the 2005, 2009, and 2014 elections. He also won a 2008 “recall” vote by a landslide (67%).
The referendum has been propitiously timed, coming just a month after festivities held to commemorate Morales’s 10-year tenure, and while the economy is still relatively strong—ahead of the growing threat posed by the worldwide plunge in commodities prices. Still, recent opinion surveys suggest a close contest, with polls weighted towards the large cities showing the “No” ahead by a narrow margin, and others slightly favoring the “Yes.” (Rural voters, who constitute 30% of the Bolivian electorate, strongly support Morales and tend to be under-represented in official polls.)
Overall, Bolivians appear to be split roughly 40%/40% between the “No” and the “Yes,” with 20% still undecided—despite Morales’s continuing high approval ratings (65%). For pro-government militants like Katu Arkonada, the upcoming referendum represents the biggest challenge that Morales and the MAS have faced in the past 10 years.
Full Article: Bolivia Votes: Can Evo Morales Run Again? | NACLA.