Bolivia is heading to snap 18 October elections following last year’s coup, which resulted in the resignation of former President Evo Morales in November 2019 and the formation of the de facto interim government of Jeanine Anez. Political analyst Gonzalo Fiore Viani has given prognosis on the upcoming vote and Bolivia’s economic prospects.
To win the election in the first round, a candidate must get either 50% of the vote or 40% with a 10-point margin. If no one manages to reach these objectives, a second round will take place on 29 November.
In September, Luis Arce, the candidate for the party of Evo Morales, the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS), led the race with 40.3% while his closest competitor, former president Carlos Mesa, gained just 26.2%, according to a Jubileo Foundation poll. Anez dropped out of the race on 17 September, explaining that she did it because of “the risk that the vote is divided among several candidates and that as a result of that division, the MAS would end up winning”.
Will the Anez Gov’t Commit to a Peaceful Transition of Power if MAS Wins?
“I am pretty sure that the MAS and its candidate, Luis Arce, will have the majority of the votes, so, the composition of the new parliament will have a clear MAS predominance,” says Argentine author and political analyst Gonzalo Fiore Viani.
Nevertheless, it is impossible to predict whether Arce will be able to win the first round, the analyst notes, not ruling out that the MAS presidential candidate will have to compete with Carlos Mesa, who lost to Evo Morales last year.
New Bolivia poll shows that the Movement Towards Socialism is just 0.9% away from a first round victory. pic.twitter.com/bKSv2KSdkl
— Kawsachun News (@KawsachunNews) October 12, 2020
”The de facto government will play a major role on this, trying to tip the balance in his favor just to beat Arce,” Viani suggests.
Yet another looming dilemma is whether the Anez government will commit to a peaceful transfer of power if MAS wins, according to the author: “The de facto government has shown a lot of times that they don’t really believe in democracy when the results are not what they want or expect,” he says.
The ouster of Evo Morales last year was preceded by a scandal over alleged election fraud by MAS, which was inflamed by the Organisation of American States’ (OAS) reports. However, later the Washington DC-based Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) called the accuracy of the OAS’ findings into question, insisting that the MAS’ Evo Morales won fairly. However, the Anez government dismissed the US statisticians’ findings.
— Kawsachun News (@KawsachunNews) October 11, 2020
”There have been some declarations of people near Jeanine Anez that said they fear that ‘fraud’ could be committed in the coming elections. But this is ludicrous because they are in power!” Viani underscores. “I think that the way the government will manage the elections will be crucial for a peaceful transition. Morales followers are mobilising and alert to make every vote count.”
Arce Has Enough Experience to Fix Bolivia’s Plummeting Economy
Those Bolivians who are going to vote for Arce apparently hope that the MAS candidate will bring the economy out of recession; Viani thinks they have good reason.
“[Arce] was a minister of economics in the Evo Morales government, and he has great numbers to show,” the author recollects. “When he was minister, the country had the best economic indicators in its whole history. The economy grew at Chinese rates, and the lower and middle class grew like never before. In this context, the memory of the happier times when Morales was the president and Arce was his minister can play a major role in the upcoming elections.”
Arce, who received his Master of Science in Economics from the University of Warwick in England in 1997 and made a career at the Bolivian Central Bank, served as a minister of economics and public finance between 2006 and 2017. According to the World Bank, during this period, Bolivia’s average GDP growth amounted to 4.9, outpacing the averages of many Latin American countries. In 2015, Arce ranked eighth among Latin America’s top ministers in a list published by the magazine America Economia.
MAS candidate Luis Arce told @DetrasdelaV that many middle class coup supporters regret their actions, after losing their incomes as a result of the economic crisis triggered by the regime’s neoliberal reforms. pic.twitter.com/t7osjdOw2r
— Kawsachun News (@KawsachunNews) October 11, 2020
Following the political crisis of October 2019, the country’s GDP has declined; like many economies throughout the world, it’s been hit by the coronavirus pandemic. While in 2019 Bolivia’s GDP growth was 2.6%, in 2020 it has slid to approximately -3.7%. Additionally, Bolivia’s foreign exchange reserves have decreased, from $13 billion in 2014 to under $4 billion now, according to the Financial Times.
Earlier this year, the Anez government requested that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) provide $327 million in emergency support to Bolivia to address the COVID-19 pandemic despite vocal opposition from the country’s lawmakers. It became the first loan to the Andean country in 17 years.
Mounting debt will become an obstacle for the future Bolivian government and its economic development, Viani admits. However, referring to the Argentine government’s negotiations with the IMF over Buenos Aires’ debt, the author hopes that Bolivia will manage to get rid of this burden.
“The IMF right now seems open to negotiate and arrange different ways of paying, like it has recently shown in Argentina’s case,” he stresses. “It is possible that with a new MAS government, with enough legitimacy after the elections, the IMF will sit and have conversations with the new government”.
Viani believes that Arce “has everything in his favour to bring back the economic miracle that was Bolivia for the last decade under Evo Morales”.