The OAS (Organization of American States) Electoral Observation Mission in Bolivia, headed by former Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom, commends Bolivian citizenry for the high level of peaceful participation on Sunday's national elections and underlines the country’s democratic commitment.
Based on the observations and information compiled directly by the experts at the meetings held with electoral authorities, members of government, political parties, and civil society representatives, the EOM/OAS makes the following observations and preliminary recommendations.
On Election Day, the Mission deployed 62 experts and international observers to the country’s nine departments, from where they reported that the polling stations observed opened punctually and that all voting materials were available. The Mission also noted the few Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) notaries present at polling stations which, together with the lack of sufficient information, generated confusion among voters. This lack of staff impeded tabulation of final results.
The electoral process was conducted with sufficient guarantees to ensure that the ballot reflected the will of the Bolivian people. However, on election night, the Mission observed that the tabulation, transmission, and dissemination of results were extremely slow, stemming from a series of technical and procedural difficulties. The Mission considers it inadvisable to draw final conclusions based on exit polling. On this occasion, given the distance between candidates and fact that rivals conceded, this was not an important factor, but in a close election, it might be problematic. In that context, the EOM/OAS emphatically recommends the implementation of an effective system for transmitting and disseminating preliminary results.
The Mission observed that the Supreme Electoral Tribunal is overburdened with functions vis-à-vis its assigned material and human resources. Accordingly, it deems it important for efforts to be made to strengthen the country’s electoral institutions.
The EOM/OAS received repeated complaints from different political parties regarding the ongoing display, during the campaign period, of the current government’s achievements. Therefore, the Mission suggests that henceforth government propaganda remain subject to election legislation for a more fair balance in access to the media.
The Mission noted that permanent public financing is not available to the political parties or for election campaigns. The system for expenditure control implemented also lacks effective tools and technical staff to perform this task. Likewise the Mission suggests the consideration be given to implementing a mixed financing system as a tool to strengthen political organizations. It also recommends building the capacities of the Technical Oversight Unit, an authority fundamental to ensuring transparency in financial resource use.
EOM/OAS recognizes major legislative development in Bolivia represented by the promotion of women’s political participation. To be noted is the key role played by the TES in these elections through oversight of effective implementation of the principle of parity and alternation. Despite these major achievements, the actors with whom the EOM/OAS met were in agreement that harassment of and political violence against women remains one of the chief obstacles to their participation.
The Mission points to the participation by candidates for the special districts drawn from peasant-farming indigenous peoples, noting the part played by women, who constituted the majority of candidates. The Mission considers it is important to implement educational campaigns to provide a better understanding of these districts, targeted especially at those peoples. It also deems it important to continue to promote the right to vote among peasant-farming indigenous peoples, supported by informative and training materials prepared in the languages of the different nations and peoples.
The EOM/OAS also highlights the expansion of the political rights of citizens living abroad, achieved through the implementation of voting in 33 countries. The Mission wishes to note the Tribunal’s efforts to organize these elections. However, it noted the replication of some of the information transmission difficulties that occurred within the country.
The observations and final conclusions compiled by the Mission will be compiled in a report to be submitted shortly to the Permanent Council of the Organization, in Washington, D.C. That report will be shared with the electoral authorities, political actors, and citizenry of the host country.
The Mission wishes to thank the Government of Bolivia for its support and openness, which enabled it to carry out its tasks without restriction, as well as the Governments of Korea, Costa Rica, Spain, United States, France, Peru, Serbia, United Kingdom, and Switzerland for their financial contributions that made possible the deployment of this mission to Bolivia.