Bolivia is in the last leg ahead of next Sunday’s governor election when president Evo Morales expects his party to keep control over seven of the nine provinces in dispute while the opposition will try to gain lost ground in recent votes.
On Sunday April 4, five million Bolivians registered voters will elect besides governors, 144 members of regional legislative assemblies, 337 mayors, 1.187 councillors plus local indigenous authorities and other posts.
According to President Morales who called on supporters to ratify last December’s support showing of 64%, the ruling Movement Towards Socialism party, MAS, should take seven of the nine governorships.
This is the first time in Bolivian history that voters will be able to elect direct autonomous regional governments, under the umbrella of the new constitution.
According to the latest public opinion poll from Ipsos, published in the capital La Paz’s La Razon, MAS is set to win in La Paz, Oruro, Potosi, Cochabamba and Pando, with Chuquisaca and Tarija too close to call, and looses Beni and Santa Cruz.
However in Santa Cruz, the richest province and until recently the opposition bastion, there is the chance of a run-off.
To ensure victory, President Morales who already has control over the Executive and Legislative called on his supporters to vote the whole MAS slate.
“The moment I find out that one of us talks about crossing his vote, that traitor will be ingloriously fired from MAS; the vote must be all along the slate for MAS, the colour is blue and that is the duty of all MAS militants, followers and candidates”, warned President Morales.
In an attempt to consolidate an overwhelming victory, Vice-president Alvaro García has been vigorously campaigning in Santa Cruz calling on voters: “you can’t work for Santa Cruz when they are against all initiatives; they block and protest every move. It is essential that governors and mayors do not confront government so we can all work shoulder to shoulder”.
García was referring to the elected authorities and electorate from Santa Cruz which in 2008 voted an autonomic statute and were on the verge of secession from Bolivia, and since 2006 have been the fiercest opponents of the first Bolivian indigenous president.
Ruben Costas, mayor of Santa Cruz headed the protests and is currently the leader of a divided opposition but still ten points ahead of the MAS hopeful Jerjes Justiniano.
The Bolivian opposition is virtually dismembered at national level since president Morales was re-elected last year with 64% of the vote defeating the opposition candidate Manfred Reyes Villa (10%) who later fled to the United Sates, alleging “political persecution”.
The opposition, mostly colonial Spanish descendent and European stock that favour pro market policies question President Morales government intervention in the economy, nationalization of natural resources, the splitting of large estates into small farms and granting the (majority) indigenous population political privileges.
President Morales is also a close ally of Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and a fierce critic of what he describes as historic “US meddling in Bolivian affairs” and of the US DEA drugs enforcement policy.
He argues that coca leaves are a millenary tradition of the Andes peoples’ culture, and refining it into cocaine is solely caused by Western civilization demand.