Politics, Bolivia, and the NY Times

23 November 2005
4:31 PM


National, prefectural, and local elections are just around the corner here in Bolivia. Campaign ads for the three leading candidates (and one more who wants to play “spoiler”) are raging on the TV; campaign vans with loudspeakers are roving the streets with their messages a la Jake and Elwood in The Blue Brothers; people sporting campaign T-shirts, buttons, and hats are common sights.

The three major candidates are Evo Morales, Jorge Tuto Quiroga, and Samuel Doria Medina, in the order of their current rank in the polls. I don’t claim to understand the Bolivian political system well, but it is shaping up to be an interesting election. In some ways, the elections bear some resemblence to those of the U.S. All the candidates are in a hurry to make lots of promises—Free breakfast and lunch in schools! Natural gas lines that go directly to your house! We’ll reclaim our national resources that we sold dirt cheap to foreign companies!—though it’s not clear that any candidate will change the status quo. In other ways, they don’t resemble those of the U.S. For one, there are more than two major candidates. For two, the candidate who wins the most votes probably won’t be president.

Evo Morales is the candidate for MAS, one of the socialist parties. RIght now he has 35% support in the polls—more than any other candidate—but no one can say for sure what will happen on December 18, election day. There is a lengthy article, “Che’s Second Coming” in the New York Times about Evo Morales and his party. If you are interested in international politics, it may interest you.


Apparently you did not recall when writing this post that in the US, the candidate who won the most votes also did not get to be president in 2001. So perhaps politics in Bolivia is not that different than the US after all….

Kate Musica

on November 27, 2005 6:20 PM

I did think about that a little, but I figure there’s only been a mismatch between the popular vote and the electoral college twice in U.S. history.

I also learned a little more about how elections work in Bolivia, though, and how someone in second or third place can become the president. In the event that none of the candidates has 51% of the votes (a typical occurance), the candidates can form alliances to reach that number. For example, if Joe has 35% of the votes and Jane has 25%, she can get the official support of Tom (15%) and Robin (12%) and become president. Of course, they’ll want something in exchange for that support, which generally means that various ministries are handed out as thank yous.

And that way, like you said, maybe elections are a little bit the same everywhere.

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