Bolivia’s hugely popular President, Evo Morales, looks set to run for a fourth term in office following the passing of a bill aimed at removing presidential term limits.
The bill which had already been approved last week by lawmakers in Bolivia’s Constitutional Committee was subsequently passed by the country’s Congress after comfortably surpassing the required two-thirds majority in a 20 hour overnight session, Bolivian news agency ABI reports.
#Ahora: Termina votación nominal en detalle de la disposición final única. 153 votos en total emitidos. 112 SÍ y 41 NO.
— Senado Bolivia (@SenadoBolivia) September 26, 2015
Under Bolivian law any proposed constitutional changes require a national referendum to legally ratify any parliamentary amendments.
The president of Bolivia’s Senate, José Alberto Gonzales, announced after the vote that a provisional date of February 21 2016 was set for the plebiscite.
If successful next year Morales has confirmed his intent to run in the 2019 elections for the 2020-2025 presidential term, which he insists will be his final period as Bolivia’s head of state.
In his push to run again Morales claims he has received resounding public support, saying, “This proposal has come from the people and they will have the opportunity to vote Yes or No,” TeleSur reports.
Déjà vu for Bolivia’s opposition
Bolivia’s opposition, however, have come out against the decision accusing Morales, who has already won three successful elections, of attempting to govern beyond his constitutional allotment for a second time.
Morales won a favourable legal ruling in 2014 allowing him to secure last year’s landslide victory. First elected in 2005 Morales, and his party Movement Towards Socialism (MAS), successfully amended Bolivia’s constitution in 2009 and among the changes was extending term limits to two consecutive periods. Bolivia’s courts ruled Morales could run for his third term as it would only be his second since the constitutional re-write.
Bolivia’s President addressed his critics directly after the vote from New York, where Morales is attending the United Nations General Assembly. TeleSur reported him as saying: “The right-wing should not be afraid of the re-election reform because the proposal will be decided on through a referendum.”
2016’s referendum: A mere formality?
Despite the referendum being months away analysts are already forecasting a cursory win for Morales as he chases his fourth term.
When first elected in a dramatic 2006 victory, Morales, who is of humble Aymara Indian origin, became Bolivia’s first indigenous president.
As the incumbent, Morales won a landslide victory last year earning over 60 percent of the vote, while his closest challenger could only manage 25 percent. Bolivia’s ruling party, MAS, also went on to earn a commanding two-thirds majority in the Legislative Assembly giving Morales a huge boost in pursuing his mandate.
The success enjoyed by Morales is down to a perennially fractured opposition, though much of it is due to the stability his administration has brought to Latin America’s historically least stable country. Bolivia holds an ignominious record of having experienced 193 coups since its independence in 1825.
Morales’ supporters claim he has brought more than calm, citing the tripling of the nation’s economy since 2006. Bolivia’s economic growth for 2014 was 5.4 and this year’s is predicted to hold at around 5 percent. Placed into context other regional economies have seen minimal growth and even recession following a fall in international commodity prices and a sluggish Chinese economy.
A combination of factors goes a long way to explaining Morales’ current polling figures which are between 60-75 percent depending on sources. A recent decision by The International Court of Justice (ICJ) recognized Bolivia’s right to dispute with Chile for access to the Pacific Ocean a source of great national pride for many Bolivians will no doubt buoy popularity and also delivers on one of his election promises from 2006.
— ATB Noticias (@ATBNoticias) September 24, 2015
Evo Morales is now Latin America’s longest serving president and next year will surpass the founder of the Bolivian Republic, Marshal Andres de Santa Cruz, as Bolivia’s longest-serving leader to consecutively hold office.
At present, it seems, Morales looks set to extend that record and if successful in 2019, by the close of his presidential tenure he will have spent just shy of two decades as Bolivia’s president.