The victory of Evo Morales’ party shows that an alternative in power would have prevented the crisis that last year triggered the attempt to perpetuate the indigenous leader. The big question: Will Arce govern with his hands free in the midst of national difficulties or will he be tutored by the former president?
The result of the elections in Bolivia presents an eloquent and instructive data for the politics of the entire region. Last year, in the controversial October elections, the ruling party at the time led by Evo Morales would surely have achieved its purpose of crowning a fourth MAS mandate had it alternating driving. This is what just happened with the victory of Luis Arce.
Morales’ decision to seek perpetuation, despite the national refusal reflected in the 2016 referendum, which rejected that alternative, was the origin of that scandal that ended in the resignation of the president and his departure into exile. Pretexting a blow that is still bathed in doubts.
What aggravated that political conflict was the failed notion that the place of personal power and not that of the model, is what guarantees its validity, although what this naked deviation is really its weakness. The Broad Front in Uruguay, a center-left force as pragmatic as Morales’s experiment has been, remained in power until last year, for a similar span of almost three decades. The extraordinary difference with the Bolivian case for this achievement was precisely his commendable capacity for renewal of leadership.
This is what has happened now with Bolivia, although under pressure from circumstances. Arce achieved a clear victory in the first lap driven largely by the conquests of stability and growth that this ally leader of Evo, obtained during those three decades at the command of the Ministry of Economy. By the way, that happened taking advantage of the formidable tailwind of the stage, with the rising price of energy and food commodities that make up Bolivia’s export basket.
Questioned in an exaggerated way by his critics, who maintain that it was only due to that conjuncture and not his ability that he achieved that the country grew 5% annually for almost 15 years, Arce will now have the opportunity to showcase his ability with a very different and burdensome setting.
The Bolivian economy had been losing steam during the third term of the Morales government, which appealed to reserves to resolve a growing deficit, based on the fall in international prices of raw materials. In 2019, the last of Evo’s stage, GDP had fallen to half its historical record. This negative scenario multiplied geometrically due to the current pandemic and the costs that the unnecessary political crisis brought.
Bolivia, like the rest of the South American countries affected by the tsunami of the disease, will now need to erase narrow ideological lines to attract urgent international investment. The State cannot attend to reconstruction. GDP has plummeted to just over 6% this year according to calculations by the Bolivian Central Bank itself.
The eloquence of necessity will eventually point the way. Arce had walked a path of pragmatism during his extensive administration, differentiating himself from the schematic and failed Bolivarian line, negotiating with the powerful agricultural and livestock farmers of the eastern crescent to expand the agricultural frontier and speed up exports to China, stimulating that trade without tax sanctions.
It is interesting that the virtual president-elect has maintained his warning in the campaign that he will be the one who governs. A strategy to capture the vote of the center, but also a warning of the need for the risks that the next government would imply to function under a guardianship that ties his hands. A two-headed experience which, as other experiences in the region prove, ends up generating impotence and paralysis in the Executive, deepening the crisis.
His running mate, former Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca, even maintains an even more independent profile and maintains the loyalty of the indigenous sectors that were elusive from Evo last year. If there is a conflict front in the future over the management of power, it will be because Morales, who has announced a soon return to Bolivia, you are not clearly reading what has happened and is happening in your country.
There is another finding that leaves this result, less important but also relevant. The failure of the pollsters that they had predicted an almost certain second round, is an indicator of the increasing difficulty in taking those references without an enormous amount of caution. It is a problem not only in Bolivia. It spreads to the world. And it is worth not losing sight of this deficiency on the way to imminent electoral commitments, even larger, such as that of the United States, this coming November 3.