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World After the elections: Bolivia's left faces challenges

17:55  20 october  2020
17:55  20 october  2020 Source:   dw.com

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Despite the overwhelming election victory according to projections, the Bolivians of the left-wing MAS did not issue a blank check, analysts believe. Because the party urgently needs to be renewed.

Präsidentschaftskandidat Luis Arce (Mitte) gibt sich bereits siegessicher © Ronaldo Schemidt / AFP / Getty Images Presidential candidate Luis Arce (center) is already confident of victory

Bolivia's socialists have made a brilliant comeback in the presidential elections. According to several unofficial post-election surveys, the 57-year-old left-wing candidate Luis Arce received almost 53 percent of the vote. The conservative ex-president Carlos Mesa would have 31.5 percent, the right-wing conservative candidate Luis Camacho around 14 percent of the vote. An official result is not expected for a few days.

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"If the absolute majority for Luis Arce (MAS) is confirmed, after a long year of conflicts, crises and improvisation we will finally have a government that has been legitimized in the polls. That is positive news for Bolivia", says the sociologist and political scientist Maria Teresa Zegada from DW's Cochabamba University.

After the last presidential election almost a year ago, unrest shook Bolivia. The opposition had accused the then President Evo Morales of electoral fraud, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets. A commission from the Organization of American States recommended new elections. Morales resigned and went into exile first in Mexico and later in Argentina. The then Minister of Economic Affairs Arce is considered to be the political foster son of Morales. This had chosen Arce from exile as a candidate - against the resistance of the party base.

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Incendiary speeches are not a program

The current election results have shown that the MAS continues to be an attractive political option for the majority of Bolivians - even after Morales has left, says Zegada. "This is also due to the fact that the bourgeois opposition was unable to present a clear program with an attractive candidate and a consolidated party."

Der konservative Ex-Präsident Carlos Mesa soll Umfragen zufolge nur auf rund 31,5 Prozent der Stimmen gekommen sein © Luis Gandarillas / AFP / Getty Images According to polls, the conservative ex-president Carlos Mesa only got around 31.5 percent of the vote

"It's not enough to swing incendiary speeches," she says, referring to right-wing populist Camacho , who was ahead in his stronghold of Santa Cruz, but got only a few votes in the rest of the country and ended up in third place. The division of the MAS opponents into two camps also cost votes. However, even if the second-placed Mesa and the third-placed Camacho had been added together, they would not have made up the MAS vote, the university professor points out.

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New middle class, tipping the scales

For Carlos Nunez, economist and political advisor from the economic metropolis of Santa Cruz, the new middle class in particular has helped the MAS to gain more votes. Because it had benefited economically from the years in power of the left-wing party. In 14 years the gross domestic product rose from nine to 40 billion US dollars, per capita income tripled, the currency was stable and extreme poverty fell from 38 to 16 percent.

Anhänger feiern auf den Straßen von La Paz, Bolivien, den vermutlichen Wahlsieg von Luis Arce © Juan Karita / AP Photo / picture alliance Supporters celebrate on the streets of La Paz, Bolivia, the presumed election victory of Luis Arce

Alienated the desire for structural reforms in the health and education sector and the anger over the increasing nepotism in the MAS however, this group in recent years from socialism. "The pandemic and economic crisis drove you back into the arms of the MAS," Nunez told DW.

Nevertheless, this is not a blank check. "The MAS economic model based solely on the exploitation of raw materials has no future," he warns. The authoritarian style of government shaped by Morales is also no longer in keeping with the times. "Arce now has to prove that he can renew the MAS," he says.

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Democratic challenges

That is of course not easy, especially since Morales is already preparing his return in Argentine exile. Conflicts with Arce and especially his Vice President David Choquehuanca, who distanced himself from Morales years ago, are inevitable. Under these circumstances, governing becomes a tightrope for Arce. Because the MAS no longer has a two-thirds majority in Congress either, so it has to look for alliances for many laws.

Jose Antonio Quiroga, columnist and editor of the Plural publishing house, sees this as the greatest danger to democracy: "Both the MAS and the lowland elite around Camacho are only democratic if it suits their interests "he warns.

Despite ideological differences, the two of them have repeatedly made pacts in the past - mainly at the expense of the environment. The expansion of GM soy and slash and burn was a concession by the MAS to the agro-industry in Santa Cruz. "A new edition of this pact could weaken the democratic center further," warns Quiroga.

Author: Sandra Weiss

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