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October 20, 2019
Regional and Municipal Elections
March 29, 2015
October 12, 2014
Bolivia’s Supreme Electoral Tribunal has proposed holding the country’s general election re-run for September 6, 2020, following negotiations with political parties. The election re-run was originally set for May, but faced delays due to COVID-19. Voters will elect a president, vice president, plus the entire national legislature, which consists of 130 members of the Chamber of Deputies and 36 members of the Senate.
The elections follow the annulment of the results of the October 2019 elections in which left-wing populist President Evo Morales ran for a controversial fourth term. The political situation had become tense ahead of the elections as the country had voted in a referendum to limit presidential terms, which Morales flagrantly defied, with the help of a strange ruling from the country’s Supreme Court.
As Morales consolidated power over the years, he became increasingly authoritarian. Consequently, his popularity plummeted, and early returns in the 2019 election showed that he faced a runoff against Carlos Mesa, a former president and longtime opposition leader, who outperformed pre-election polls and placed second. Nonetheless, Morales was declared the unequivocal winner of the presidential election after a 24-hour freeze in the vote count. Protests erupted. International observers reported credible evidence of vote-rigging – the Organization of American States audit found “intentional manipulation” and “serious irregularities.” Morales subsequently resigned and fled the country. The legislature canceled the results and ordered new elections. Opposition leader and then-Senate vice president Jeanine Áñez from the center-right Democrat Social Movement declared herself interim president and continues to serve in that role.
Morales’ Movement for Socialism (MAS) dominated Bolivian politics from 2006 to 2019. Prior to Morales, the country had five different presidents in five years, but Morales won the 2005 elections with a clear majority and his party won and maintained a majority in the legislature.
Bolivia does not have many long-standing, durable political parties, but rather parties have emerged as vehicles for particular politicians and ideological coalitions ahead of elections. MAS itself was only founded in 1999, growing out of. However, one notable exception is the center-right Christian Democratic Party, which was founded in 1954 and currently has nine seats in the Chamber of Deputies.
Although previously saying she would not be a candidate in the new elections, Áñez controversially decided to run, announcing opposition leader Samuel Doria Medina – who came in second in the 2014 presidential election – as her running mate.
Morales cannot run in these elections, but his designated successor is Luis Arce.
Morales is currently under investigation for electoral fraud. Consequently, the country’s electoral body declared him ineligible to run for Senate, which he had expressed a desire to do.
Yascha Mounk, The Atlantic (November 11, 2019): Evo Morales Finally Went Too Far for Bolivia – The socialist president claimed authoritarian powers in the name of the popular will. But average citizens were fed up with arbitrary rule.
The Economist (March 5, 2020): Bolivia after the ouster of Evo Morales, a leftist strongman
Photo: A post-protest in Bolivia in October 2019.
Photo credit: Wikimedia/Mandarina420 (CC BY-SA 4.0) https://bit.ly/2V7SYgW
Updated June 2, 2020